OAKLAND -- The chances of the White Sox returning to their winning ways Friday after losing three straight games in a rain-shortened intracity series against the Cubs will increase if they're able to reach the seventh inning with a lead.
The back end of Chicago's bullpen has been dominant as of late behind the play of setup man Jesse Crain and closer Addison Reed, who is tied for second in the American League with 17 saves and ranks fourth in save percentage at 94.1.
But it's Crain, just two-thirds of an inning away from matching his career-best 20 straight scoreless innings, who really has the White Sox buzzing.
"He's the best reliever in baseball right now, no contest," fellow reliever Matt Thornton said. "He's striking out the side, it seems, every single outing. He's coming out in huge situations, getting out of jams every time he goes out there. The numbers speak for themselves."
Crain began Friday's action tied for first in the American League with 15 holds, striking out 31 batters in 23 innings, allowing just two runs and eight walks.
"You almost get surprised when someone gets on base against Jesse right now, and it's not gonna matter because he's not going anywhere," Thornton said. "It seems like when we get to the eighth and ninth inning right now with those guys it's pretty much locked down."
Referencing normal rhetoric, Crain said the key to maintaining success is to not look too far ahead in the future and taking one game at a time.
"It's fun to have a chance to throw every day, but it's a grind," Crain said. "Even when we don't throw, we have to be prepared to throw. So you have to keep a routine every single day throughout the season."
Crain did allow a two-run single to Coco Crisp in the eighth inning of Oakland's 3-0 win over the White Sox on Friday, but one run was charged to Dylan Axelrod and the second to Matt Thornton.
Jeff Kirshman is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.