While a strong bullpen is considered imperative for a team to make a run at the postseason, the Chicago White Sox are doing their best to defy that notion.
Chicago looks to claim only its second series win this month Wednesday night against the Baltimore Orioles.
Coming off a 2-4 road trip, the White Sox (68-57) opened a six-game homestand Tuesday and held on for a 7-5 victory over the Orioles. Gordon Beckham(notes) hit a three-run homer and Bobby Jenks(notes) came through with the save to help Chicago pull within 3 1/2 games of AL Central-leading Minnesota.
Despite a stellar performance from Jenks, a struggling bullpen remains a major concern for the White Sox, 5-10 in their last 15. Chicago relievers have been scored upon in eight of the last 10 games, going 1-5 with four blown saves and a 6.43 ERA during that span.
With All-Star left-hander Matt Thornton(notes) sidelined with a sore left forearm, J.J. Putz(notes), struggling with inflammation in his right knee, relieved an ineffective Sergio Santos(notes) in the ninth Tuesday. Putz left after throwing three straight balls to Ty Wigginton(notes).
“The last guy I wanted to use was Bobby,” manager Ozzie Guillen said. “One day off, between three innings and today I was taking a risk, but I didn’t have any choices. It’s always important late in the game when you have a bullpen that can shut it down.
“We do that all year long. Unfortunately now we hit a bump and that road has a lot of bumps now.”
Thornton and Putz will be placed on the disabled list Wednesday, forcing the White Sox to call up a pair of relievers from the minors.
With the bullpen thin and struggling, ace Mark Buehrle(notes) (12-9, 3.87 ERA) will face added pressure to pitch deep into his start Wednesday. He came up big in an 11-0 victory at Minnesota on Thursday, scattering five hits over seven innings to help the White Sox avoid a sweep.
The left-hander has surrendered three earned runs or fewer and pitched at least six innings in 12 of his last 13 starts. Included in that stretch was a 4-3 loss at Baltimore on Aug. 8, during which he allowed four runs and 10 hits in seven innings.
He has gone 5-4 with a 2.99 ERA in 13 starts against the Orioles, losing the last two.
Luke Scott has homered in three straight games for Baltimore (44-82), which is 12-10 in August. The Orioles need to win half of their final six games this month for their first winning August since 1997, the most recent season in which they finished over .500.
Baltimore sends Brian Matusz(notes) (5-12, 4.97) to the mound to complete this matchup of left-handers. Matusz rebounded from a dismal outing with an outstanding showing in a 4-0 win over Texas on Thursday. He allowed five hits over a career high-tying eight innings, walking one and striking out six.
Matusz was very good against the White Sox on Aug. 9, giving up one run and three hits over six innings of a 3-2, 10-inning win.