CHICAGO -- The plan was laid out by White Sox manager Rick Renteria and his coaching staff prior to 4-1 loss to the Red Sox on Wednesday night at Guaranteed Rate Field.
In a perfect world, starting pitcher Mike Pelfrey would give them five innings. With Pelfrey having a .556 batting average against and a 1.849 OPS in the third plate appearance against a hitter in a game, Renteria would then go to his bullpen featuring Major League Baseball's lowest opponents' average and third-lowest ERA entering Wednesday's contest.
Pelfrey followed the script, yielding two hits over five scoreless and exiting with a 1-0 lead after 83 pitches. That's when the script deviated for Anthony Swarzak, who had posted 18 scoreless appearances and a 1.16 ERA over 23 1/3 innings.
Boston touched up the right-hander for four runs on four hits in the sixth, putting up the necessary support to take the series-deciding contest. Swarzak apologized to Pelfrey after blowing the lead, a move Pelfrey said was not necessary.
"I'm like, 'For what? It's just bad luck,'" Pelfrey said. "He's obviously been great, and just some bad luck tonight. Ended up not turning out as we would've liked."
"I take pride in paying attention to what goes on in the game when I'm not in it. The guy pitched his butt off tonight," Swarzak said. "He deserves a win, and I came in there and my job was to throw up a zero and it didn't really happen. I really believe that if I throw up a zero right there, we're going to go on to win that game, 1-0."
Swarzak's results look worse in the boxscore then they did in real time. Xander Bogaerts and Mitch Moreland both reached with one out on soft singles, with the runners moving up a base on center fielder Leury Garcia's high throw to third.
Jackie Bradley Jr. was intentionally walked to load the bases, and Josh Rutledge hit a ball to Tim Anderson with the look of an inning-ending double play. The grounder stuck in the shortstop's glove for an extra second or two, giving Rutledge time to beat the relay throw and allow the tying run to score. Pablo Sandoval blooped the go-ahead single to left, and Christian Vazquez's two-run double represented the inning's lone solid contact.
Vazquez connected on a low slider, out of the zone.
"Those nights are going to happen, and I'm trying not to think about it too much," Swarzak said. "I threw some really good pitches that inning that I honestly feel like nobody in the league is going to hit. I know I probably shouldn't say that after giving up a four-spot, but you've got to look at the positives. Tonight it just wasn't my night."
Despite the result, Renteria felt confident in the plan. The stellar bullpen allows the White Sox to shorten games, but there wasn't much offensive support Wednesday to give Swarzak and company room to work.
"You don't want to allow it to open up and then you bring in a reliever with traffic," Renteria said. "It's not just [Pelfrey]. It's anybody who's starting. When they get to a particular inning, you think about what you want your relievers to be able to inherit."