Chicago White Sox bullpen holds off the Tampa Bay Rays for a series win that could be a ‘big momentum builder’

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The Chicago White Sox lead — once six runs — was down to one entering the seventh inning Sunday against the Tampa Bay Rays.

Manager Tony La Russa called on relievers Aaron Bummer, Kendall Graveman and Liam Hendriks — and each got the job done, helping the Sox hold on for a 6-5 victory in front of 11,162 at Tropicana Field.

“The offense went off early, gave us that big lead and the bullpen shut it down for three innings after I was done,” Sox starter Lucas Giolito said. “A win is a win. And wins are huge.”

The Sox took two of three in the series, with both victories by one run.

The runs came late Saturday for the Sox with a three-run eighth featuring a go-ahead two-run homer by Jake Burger sparking a 3-2 win.

The runs came early Sunday as the Sox scored four in the first and two in the second. The Rays got within 6-5 after scoring four runs in the sixth.

Bummer, Graveman and Hendriks combined to give up one hit while striking out five in the final three innings.

“In Toronto, (we) lost some really tough games,” La Russa said of last week’s three-game sweep. “Lost the first game (of the Rays series), come back and beat them twice. See what our record is (25-27), but we’ve got guts, we like to compete and we’re tough enough.

“There’s some times we’ve just got to execute better, no doubt about it. That’s the key going forward, to play better, sometimes to pitch better. But the other part, the talent is there and the toughness is there. That counts for a lot.”

The Sox set a season high with 16 hits, three each from Andrew Vaughn and Luis Robert. Vaughn drove in one and scored twice. Robert had one RBI.

Burger doubled twice and had two RBIs. Yasmani Grandal also had two RBIs

Eight players in the starting lineup had at least one hit.

Burger drove in two in the first with a double. It was just the fourth hit in 36 at-bats with the bases loaded for the Sox this season.

“(I) was able to control my emotions for that at-bat,” Burger said.

Grandal followed with a check-swing single to right that brought home two more.

“We just had to take advantage of getting good pitches and getting them out over the plate,” Vaughn said of the approach against Rays starter Ryan Yarbrough, who allowed six runs on eight hits in 1⅔ innings.

Giolito had a four-run lead before he threw his first pitch.

The Sox added two more for the right-hander in the second. Vaughn drove in a run with a double and scored on Robert’s single to left.

“You have a big lead to work with, you just go out there and want to attack the strike zone,” Giolito said.

He said he was able to do that “for the most part.”

“That last inning, falling behind a couple of guys and not putting guys away, but all in all, got through six innings and maintained the lead,” Giolito said. “Made it a little too interesting though.”

Giolito allowed five runs (two earned) on eight hits with three strikeouts and two walks.

The Rays took advantage of an error by Grandal at first base during the four-run sixth, which included a two-run homer by Mike Zunino.

“Throughout the start it was a bit of a battle, working with runners on base,” Giolito said. “Getting some big double plays, defense was great.

”But kind of like my last start (Tuesday against the Blue Jays with) the (four-run) fifth inning — this start the sixth — just didn’t execute pitches when I needed a few more executed pitches to get out of it relatively unscathed and maintain a big lead for us.”

That’s where the relievers stepped in.

“It’s a good feeling knowing that when my day’s done, got some guys coming in to shut it down,” Giolito said.

Bummer allowed one hit and struck out one in a scoreless seventh. Graveman struck out the side in the eighth and Hendriks had one strikeout in a 1-2-3 ninth for his 16th save.

“That’s how our front office built the bullpen,” La Russa said.

After getting swept in Toronto, the Sox bounced back with an impressive series win against the Rays.

“Big momentum builders for us,” Giolito said. “The road trip did not start off well. It was important to find a little of our groove and win this series so we can go home, enjoy the off day (Monday) and keep that momentum going back at home.”