CLEVELAND — The unit as a whole hasn’t been as sharp of late, but the back of the White Sox bullpen continues to get it done.
David Robertson’s two scoreless innings highlighted four strong frames from the bullpen as the White Sox snapped a three-game losing streak with a 5-3 victory over the Cleveland Indians in front of 31,753 at Progressive Field on Saturday night. Starter David Holmberg earned his first ever win for the White Sox and Melky Cabrera and Jose Abreu each had three hits for the team, which improved to 2-7 on the road trip. It was Robertson’s first two-inning save with the White Sox and the second of his MLB career.
“They came to me before the game and said be ready for (multiple innings),” said Robertson, who struck out four batters. “I said, ‘Ok, perfect.’ I came in after the first inning and they were like can you go again and I was like ‘Yeah, absolutely.’ I went out there and finished the job.”
With the top of Cleveland’s lineup due in the eighth, manager Rick Renteria turned to Robertson. Renteria had wiggle room in that Tommy Kahnle could pitch if things took a turn for the worse. But Renteria wanted the White Sox to hold their two-run advantage and thought Robertson was the answer with four straight batters who would hit left-handed due up.
The right-hander took over and worked around a one-walk with strikeouts of Jason Kipnis, Michael Brantley and Carlos Santana. Robertson also returned with a 1-2-3 ninth to convert his 10th save in 11 tries.
The closer’s two-inning effort followed a combined two innings of one-run ball from Anthony Swarzak, Dan Jennings and Chris Beck. Jennings yielded a sixth-inning solo shot to Santana that allowed the Indians to get within 4-3 but the White Sox held firm from there.
The bullpen, which has a combined 3.43 ERA, improved to 20-0 when leading after six innings.
“They were excellent,” Renteria said. “We wanted to put our best guy there to kind of see if we could truly stop it. He was good to go the second inning and did a nice job.
“They’re unique situations. They’re still high leverage for me. But you have to be careful. You can’t do it too often.
“You just put a lot of stress on those guys when you do it.”
The White Sox aggressive play on the bases added a little unnecessary stress. Despite finishing with 14 hits, the White Sox hurt several potential rallies as they ran into five aggressive outs.
Todd Frazier was easily thrown out stealing third base in the first inning. Cabrera, who also was forced out at home in the first, was thrown out after an aggressive send by third-base coach Nick Capra on Abreu’s double in the second. Avisail Garcia was throw out going from first to third in the third inning on Frazier’s single to deep shortstop. Abreu was cut down stretching a single into a double in the fifth inning. And Yolmer Sanchez was doubled off third base to end the eighth inning when Leury Garcia popped up a bunt attempt. Renteria was OK with some of those plays but not all.
“It was super aggressive, but not necessarily good,” Renteria said. “Maybe a little reckless.”
Even so, the White Sox did some damage against Josh Tomlin and a cadre of Cleveland relief pitchers.
Abreu had the third of three straight first-inning singles off Tomlin to give the White Sox a 1-0 lead. Matt Davidson added a two-out, two-run single in the first to put the White Sox up by three runs.
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They made it a 4-0 game in the second inning when Melky Cabrera, who had three hits, singled in a run. And the White Sox tacked on an insurance run in the eighth on Kevan Smith’s sacrifice fly.
The early offense gave Holmberg plenty of breathing room and he took advantage. The lefty didn’t allow a hit until the third inning and used his offspeed pitch to keep Cleveland off-balance. He surrendered a two-run homer to Edwin Encarnacion in the fourth inning but didn’t yield any more. Drafted in the second round of the White Sox on June 9, 2009, Holmberg allowed two earned runs and three hits in five innings. He struck out four.
“It is kind of cool,” Holmberg said. “Just thinking about that, it’s been a long time since I got drafted by this organization. I’m happy to be here and I’m happy to win the ballgame.”