Tony La Russa stands by his bullpen after White Sox fall to Red Sox

Evan Marshall entered a tie game and left it trailing. Codi Heuer did the same, allowing a homer to Marwin Gonzalez. Then Jose Ruiz added some ugly to it with three walks.

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Manager Tony La Russa takes the ball from Dylan Cease of the White Sox in the fifth inning of the MLB game against the Red Sox at Fenway Park on April 17, 2021 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)


BOSTON — Tony La Russa defended his bullpen again, and while it’s admirable and has become the norm for the White Sox’ manager to back his guys, some bad bullpen facts remained after a 7-4 loss to the Red Sox on Saturday at Fenway Park.

Sox relievers are now 2-7 with a 4.90 ERA.

Evan Marshall entered a tied game and left it trailing. Codi Heuer (1-1) did the same, -allowing a homer to Marwin Gonzalez. Heuer did so after striking out the heart of the Red Sox’ lineup in a dominant seventh, but still. And then Jose Ruiz added some ugly to it with three walks.

“Heuer, what did he do when he first came in? Let’s pay attention to what happened,” La Russa said. “What did he do in his first inning?”

He struck out J.D. Martinez, Xander -Bogaerts and Rafael Devers in order.

“Struck out the side,” La Russa said. “And then he got a pitch up and the guy tomahawked it, and then he made a couple mistakes and left pitches in the middle of the plate, being a human being, not a machine. But I have not changed my mind at all about the bullpen.”

It was Gonzalez’s first extra-base hit, and it came leading off the eighth. Two Red Sox hits, a lineout and another strikeout followed before La Russa went to Ruiz, who failed to hold the deficit at one.

“I just think when you get beat, you get beat as a team,” said La Russa, whose team, despite excellent starting pitching, fell to 6-8. “I’m sure our offense feels like we missed a couple of opportunities to add points there and we had a good defensive game, so I just think the bullpen is one of the strengths of our club. There’s no doubt in my mind.”

The bullpen is averaging 12.27 strikeouts per nine innings, which ranks first in the American League. That puts the Sox in the class they expected to be recognized in when “The Pen is Mighty” T-shirts were distributed during spring training.

There’s no denying it’s stocked with -power arms.

The results are the results, though. There’s no denying that, either.

“But the good thing is we all know our bullpen’s going to be unstoppable at some point in the season,” catcher Zack Collins said. “We’ve got a lot of live arms in there, and they’ll be fine.”

La Russa believes more favorable results are coming, and he believes his lineup, which has produced four or fewer runs in six of the last eight games, will perk up.

Even starter Dylan Cease, who lasted 4‰ innings for the third time in as many starts, failed to hold a lead. The Red Sox, a surprisingly tall order with a 10-1 record in their last 11 games, scored two in the third against Cease, who was well after going on the injured list for a couple of days this week for precautionary reasons because of a sore throat and a fever. He gave up six hits and walked three while -striking out six.

Failing to complete five innings, Cease hasn’t followed his encouraging spring that ended with an 11-strikeout performance, but his ERA is a respectable 3.86.

“I don’t think anything needs a super drastic change. It’s just consistently executing pitches better,” Cease said.

Right fielder Adam Eaton, who doubled in a run and has reached base in every game he has played, saved a run by snaring Devers’ liner above the right-field wall in the second.

Marshall replaced Cease, but the Red Sox went ahead 3-2 in the sixth inning when Kevin Plawecki doubled with two outs and scored on Kike Hernandez’s single.

“Marshall comes in and makes a good pitch, and then he hung one,” La Russa said. “That’s probably the tale of the day more than anything. We left some pitches in the strike zone when we had the count in our favor. That’s probably the No. 1 takeaway that we can improve on.”

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