In the first two games of a three-game set against the Kansas City Royals, the Chicago White Sox have shown a new energy, a new spark, completely contrary to the dreary attitude that characterized their play in the beginning of May. In the hunt for one specific highlight, you could look at the fact that the White Sox hit five home runs over two games at Kauffman Stadium, four less than the Royals have hit there so far this season. You could look at the dominant performance of starter Andre Rienzo, who led the White Sox to a 7-6 win tonight by going six strong innings and giving up just two runs on five hits while striking out eight batters.
Or, you could look at the performance of reliever Zach Putnam, a near-nobody who came up from Triple A Charlotte on April 17 and quickly became one of Chicago’s most valuable parts in a bullpen that started shaky but improved somewhat as April turned to May. Putnam picked up the win last night by pitching two innings of scoreless relief, coming into the game right after the departure of starter Scott Carroll, who struggled in his four-inning outing.
Putnam proved his versatility tonight when the White Sox brought him into a higher-pressure situation, to get them out of a difficult jam and preserve the lead. Putnam entered the game in the bottom of the eighth inning, two outs, with runners on first and second and the lead pared down to one run. He needed just 10 pitches to end the inning, inducing a popup and a groundout and earning a hold at the game’s conclusion. All in all this season, Putnam has a 1.40 ERA in 12 appearances and 19.1 innings pitched.
The White Sox may have some bullpen reshuffling to do in the wake of the recent injury to closer Matt Lindstrom, who went on the DL today with a left ankle issue he sustained in the ninth inning of last night’s ballgame. Based on tonight’s win, it looks like Ronald Belisario will take over the closing duties in Lindstrom’s stead. If any more relievers get moved around, it’s clear that the one part the White Sox shouldn’t move, touch or otherwise jostle is Putnam. He’s proven himself to be a solid situational anchor right where he is.