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Liam Hendriks struck out two while recording the save in Game 1 of a May 29 doubleheader against the Baltimore Orioles.
The Chicago White Sox called upon their closer again in Game 2 and he struck out the side, becoming the first Sox pitcher to save both games of a doubleheader since Bobby Jenks on Sept. 4, 2010, in Boston.
The next day, Hendriks retired the side in order to become the first Sox pitcher to record three saves in two days since Bobby Thigpen on July 27-28, 1991.
The Sox had another doubleheader May 31 in Cleveland. Hendriks joked that he was ready to try for five saves in three days.
The Sox, understandably, gave him the day off.
“I told these guys, every day I’m ready to go,” Hendriks said during a conference call Thursday. “They wouldn’t let me go (May 31) unfortunately. I understand it — I’m not an idiot — but at the same time I never want to ask for a day off because I get complacent.
“I never go in there expecting a day off. If I’m sore, I say, ‘Look, save only, let’s go and I’ll be ready no matter what.’ ”
Hendriks said he joked with Sox general manager Rick Hahn that “I’m a peacock — you have to let me fly.”
“Which is the quote from (the movie) ‘The Other Guys,’ ” Hendriks said. “It may have been lost in translation as I was walking down the steps as I said it, with the (Australian) accent.
“I just want to pitch as much as I can. Five (saves) and three (days) would have been cool, but I’m happy with as many opportunities I can get.”
Hendriks is making the most of those opportunities with an American League-leading 15 saves in 17 chances entering Tuesday’s series opener against the Toronto Blue Jays at Guaranteed Rate Field. He has a 1.85 ERA and 40 strikeouts in 24⅓ innings.
Last week, he was named the American League Reliever of the Month for May. He went 0-1 with a 0.00 ERA in 11⅔ innings in the month, converting all eight of his save opportunities with 19 strikeouts in 13 appearances.
“It’s always exciting,” Hendriks said of the honor. “Everyone knows the first month I had here wasn’t what I considered up to my standards. And working with a lot of people trying to get back on track of where we are now, (I) was able to put a good month together and hopefully we continue it on and push that way.”
Hendriks began June on a strong note as well. He pitched in three of the four games against the Detroit Tigers last weekend and had a win and two saves.
“The biggest edge is you just love the competition,” Sox manager Tony La Russa said of Hendriks before Tuesday’s game. “Just imagine sitting there, it’s a close game. For eight innings your team is working, your starting pitching and the other relievers, and you’ve got to get three outs to make everybody happy.
“It’s a crushing kind of responsibility, and some guys thrive on it. I think he just loves to get the hitters at the plate out.”
Entering Tuesday, Hendriks had 12 straight scoreless appearances, allowing just two hits with two walks and 16 strikeouts during that span. He had retired 20 consecutive batters since issuing a game-ending walk May 23 against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium.
“I’m definitely a little more cognizant of the way my body’s moving than I was at the start of the year,” Hendriks said. “At the start of the year, I was concentrating a little too much on velocity and stuff like that. I’ve been looking to make sure I really get truly behind the ball, which makes my rise a little bit better on the fastball.
“That’s one of the main things I’m looking at. It’s just a little bit more of getting behind the ball and worrying less about velocity, worrying less about trying to throw as hard as I can and more about going through the mechanics the right way before the game so when I get on the mound, I don’t have to think about anything. Everything is that second nature of making sure it repeats itself.”