Bummer's bad luck continues in Sox loss: 'S--- happens' originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
The Chicago White Sox bullpen has not had the results Aaron Bummer was hoping for.
"I don't expect to lose a game if we're leading after the fifth inning," the reliever said during spring training. "I really think that the talent in our bullpen is that good, to where we should be able to go out there and hold leads for our starters, regardless of the score."
It hasn't gone that way. And Bummer has been in the middle of a good number of the late-game misfortunes, saddled with his fourth loss and fifth blown save Wednesday night, when the White Sox watched a 2-1 lead in the eighth inning turn into a 6-2 loss to the visiting Toronto Blue Jays.
But while there's been plenty of attention on Bummer and the rest of a White Sox bullpen that hasn't lived up to its own preseason expectations, the lefty's bad luck — "buzzard luck," as manager Tony La Russa calls it — is becoming its own kind of storyline.
You might sit at home and wonder, "How can Bummer keep blowing leads?" The better question might be, "How can Bummer keep blowing leads in this fashion?"
"He’s had some buzzard luck," La Russa said. "I was just walking by him and the crawl (on TV) said, 'Sox bullpen struggles.' This guy comes in and gets a pop up, a strikeout and an infield single. I mean, that’s three outs normally. I wouldn’t call it struggling."
That brisk recap was indeed an accurate summation of Bummer's eighth inning Wednesday night. He didn't get knocked around the yard by one of the more impressive offenses in baseball. He coaxed a pop out to start the frame, then got a strikeout and a softly hit ground ball. As La Russa said, in most innings, that's a breezy 1-2-3 frame. With Bummer's luck what it is right now, it was a dropped third strike that allowed a runner to reach, followed by an infield single. Two on, one out.
A base hit to right followed to load the bases, and then Bummer walked Vladimir Guerrero Jr. to force in the tying run. He exited, only for two more runs to score once he left, with Tim Anderson's attempt at an inning-ending double play ending in a throwing error.
Bummer didn't get smoked Wednesday. And that's been the case more than once this season as the guy who had a combined 1.99 ERA in 2019 and 2020 owned a 4.30 mark by late Wednesday night.
"For lack of a better word, shit happens, and it's how you respond to it. And I really wasn't happy with the way I responded to it," Bummer said after the game.
"You can control what you can control. I can only control the next pitch. And I didn't make the pitches that I needed to. It's as simple as that. I let the team down in that aspect, and I've got to go out there and be better. I've got to be able to have that mentality to go through and work through the crap and work through those types of things and be able to get the job done.
"It's kind of how you respond to the crap that defines who we are as a bullpen. That's something that I wear on my shoulders and wear out there. That's something I have to be better at."
Give Bummer plenty of credit. For all the "crap" he's had to deal with this season, he's not whining about it, instead turning the spotlight back on himself. Fans have been quick to call him out for not being the automatic out machine he was the last two seasons, but it's clear he's his own harshest critic.
That's what the White Sox are happy to see, someone who's accountable while still understanding of his situation. His manager, his teammates, they see a key cog to their championship hopes who's handling this tough stretch the way he should.
"That's who he is. He's even-keeled, same guy every day no matter what, good, bad or whatever's going on," White Sox starting pitcher Lance Lynn said. "So as long as we keep that going and don't let things snowball, then you start worrying about things you can't control.
"In this game, when you start to worry about things you can't control, then things happen to be even worse. As I've talked to him, he hasn't done that. ... His stuff's good. You're seeing bad swings and bad contact, so we need to make sure we keep him right there and things will work themselves out."
Lynn's confidence that things will turn for Bummer reminded of what Bummer's bullpen mate Liam Hendriks said recently. And with Hendriks, an elite bullpen arm just like Bummer has been for the past two seasons, turning his bumpy start to 2021 around in a hurry, there's faith that the much ballyhooed bullpen can still live up to the immense preseason hype.
But getting Bummer back to his usual performances will be key to doing that. Once it happens, days like Wednesday will become a distant memory. Until it happens, days like Wednesday will continue to live as a trend in the minds of fans.
"He has all the confidence in the world, and he’s going to figure it out and do something special," Hendriks said last week. "And by the end of the year, he’ll probably have the best numbers in our bullpen by a long way.
"He’s got weak contact the entire time. Guys aren’t lacing balls, they’re just finding holes. And all he needs is a line drive at somebody, and all of a sudden, it clicks, the confidence comes back and he’s rolling for a few months."