BOSTON — White Sox starters own a 2.50 ERA in their last 13 games. Dallas Keuchel, who entered the 3-2 victory over the Red Sox on Sunday with an 8.40 ERA, wanted in on the action.
Manager Tony La Russa, knowing his bullpen was thin in this game, wanted to see that, too.
“Come on, Keuchel!” La Russa said before Keuchel pitched six innings of two-run ball in his best start of the season. The resurgent White Sox completed a series sweep of the slumping Red Sox with their sixth consecutive victory.
With Liam Hendriks and Kendall Graveman unavailable and Aaron Bummer headed to the injured list, La Russa’s next exhortation had to be “Come on today’s pieced together bullpen!”
La Russa made all the right moves with what he had to work with and got scoreless contributions from Ryan Burr, Matt Foster, Jose Ruiz and Bennett Sousa in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings to preserve the win.
It didn’t look good when Ruiz allowed a leadoff double off the Green Monster to J.D. Martinez. But he got Christian Vazquez on an infield pop-up and struck out Alex Verdugo.
La Russa then went to rookie left-hander Bennett Sousa with Jackie Bradley Jr. due up. Right-handed-hitting Kevin Plawecki pinch-hit and flew out as Sousa recorded his first career save. The Sox, 7-12 nine days ago, caught a plane home with a 14-13 record in tow.
“It was awesome,” Sousa said. “I mean, one out, go in there, get the job done and end with a sweep.
“The key is not to let the pressure get too big, even though it’s Fenway Park, first time and that tying run is on second base.”
Faith in the 34-year-old Keuchel has been waning, but the veteran lefty had his longest start of the season. His previous high was five innings.
The runs came in his final inning as the Red Sox’ hard contact was ramping up. He allowed eight hits and walked no one after Kike Hernandez led off the first with a free pass.
“Nothing bigger than Dallas pitching six innings, two runs, that’s the biggest,” La Russa said.
Seven of the hits were singles. Keuchel struck out five.
“Last week I felt really close, and this was a great step forward,” Keuchel said. “Just tried to corral the strike zone. Definitely a step in the right direction.”
The Sox gave Keuchel a 3-0 lead in the third. Leury Garcia, leading off in Tim Anderson’s customary spot — Anderson was rested by La Russa — scored Reese McGuire with an infield single, and DH Jose Abreu doubled in two runs.
Keuchel survived a 26-pitch first inning to last a season-high 92 pitches.
Keuchel is always good in pink cleats. On Mother’s Day 2018, he pitched seven scoreless innings with eight strikeouts for the -Astros against the Rangers.
He was unfazed sitting through a lengthy top half of the fourth that included an 18-minute delay when plate umpire Ron Kulpa left the game when he was hit in the mask by a foul tip. Marty Foster took his place.
Before the game, Michael -Wacha, the Red Sox’ scheduled starter, landed on the injured list with left intercostal irritation, retroactive to May 5. Starter Tanner Rouck went 22⁄3 innings, allowing three runs.
Keuchel handled the 11:38 a.m. local time start better than Houck.
“I knew it was going to be interesting,” Keuchel said. “I got to bed before 11 [Saturday night], but it was like the internal clock was so worried about getting up and getting ready to get the routine going. I’m pretty sure I woke up like five, six times to not want to oversleep.”
The Red Sox will wake up Monday with a 10-19 record.
“I wouldn’t have bet on it,” La Russa said of the sweep. “I have a lot of confidence in our team, but I know how good [the Red Sox] are. They were all really intense, tense, stressful games.”