'It was awesome': Sousa's first save caps sweep

May 8th, 2022

BOSTON -- The White Sox held a one-run lead over the Red Sox in the ninth inning Sunday afternoon at Fenway Park, but there was no Liam Hendriks, Aaron Bummer or Kendall Graveman running in from the right-field bullpen to close things out.

No problem for the owners of a six-game winning streak and a record that is back over .500 after a 3-2 victory. The win was the fifth straight on the road for the White Sox (14-13), who swept the Red Sox for the first time since May 30-June 1, 2011, also at Fenway.

allowed two runs over six innings before giving way to Ryan Burr, who pitched a scoreless seventh, and Matt Foster, who picked up his fourth hold by striking out Trevor Story, Rafael Devers and Xander Bogaerts in the eighth. Hendriks had saved the last five wins for the White Sox dating back to May 2, with manager Tony La Russa joking before the game that he told Hendriks not to even wear his cleats on Sunday.

Bummer will be placed on the injured list Monday with a right knee issue suffered during his last outing Friday. La Russa said postgame that Graveman got up Saturday and was going to come into that game if something had happened, but the White Sox were not going to “risk it” Sunday by using a hurler who already was tied for the team high with 13 appearances.

So what were the ninth-inning options? The three outs began with José Ruiz and ended with ’s first career save.

“It was awesome,” said Sousa, who got the ball from the big moment. “I mean, one out, go in there, get the job done and end with a sweep. It was great.”

Ruiz was helped by a strong wind on J.D. Martinez’s leadoff double off the Green Monster, which on most days would have been a game-tying home run. The right-hander retired the next two, but La Russa felt more comfortable with the southpaw Sousa facing left-handed-hitting Jackie Bradley Jr. as the potential game-winning run.

Red Sox manager Alex Cora countered with right-handed-hitting pinch-hitter Kevin Plawecki. Plawecki flied out to center fielder Luis Robert to end the game.

“As soon as it was in the air, I knew it would be an out because the wind was crazy today,” Sousa said. “That was really exciting. I gave [catcher] Reese [McGuire] a big hug.”

“Those guys have been doing it since Day 1, really,” La Russa said. “Sousa’s done a really good job, Foster has saved us and Ruiz, they’ve all [helped]. Burr, the first guy that had to do it in the seventh. That’s big. Nothing bigger than Dallas pitching six innings, two runs, that’s the biggest.”

Sunday’s game had a first pitch of 11:30 a.m. ET for the premiere of Peacock’s MLB Sunday Leadoff Package. It also was the fourth time during this winning streak that the White Sox scored exactly three runs; they scored four in each of the other two victories.

White Sox starting pitchers have produced a 2.51 ERA with a .211 opponents’ average over the past 13 games. Both the offense and the bullpen will get a boost Monday, with third baseman Yoán Moncada (strained right oblique) and right-handed hurler Joe Kelly (nerve issue in right biceps) returning from injury rehab assignments with Triple-A Charlotte prior to the start of a seven-game homestand.

Moncada will hit second Monday against the Guardians, per La Russa.

“We are excited to get [Moncada] back, period,” La Russa said. “But add the exclamation mark with the way [Charlotte manager] Wes [Helms] is talking about how he’s working, great frame of mind and really getting the bat out. It’s not just him. It’s an expectation he’s ready now to help us.”

Kelly also will be embraced with “open arms,” according to La Russa, but his focus was completely on Sunday’s contest. The White Sox claimed victory with shortstop Tim Anderson, the team’s hottest hitter and ignitor, getting an off-day. Those absences didn’t keep the team from moving over .500 for the first time since April 20 (6-5).

“This team is too good and has too much talent to not get over slumps like what we had,” Sousa said. “This is how we are going to play.”

“I have a lot of confidence in our team, but I know how good [the Red Sox] are,” La Russa said. “They were all really intense, tense, stressful games. No leeway there to think anything except prepare for the worst and hope for the best.”