Chris Flexen, White Sox win series finale over Rays

Chris Flexen, White Sox win series finale over Rays
Chris Flexen, White Sox win series finale over Rays

ST. PETERSBURG — The Chicago offense wasn’t much, but it was more than White Sox starter Chris Flexen was used to this season.

A pair of two-run innings and a dominant start from Flexen were just enough for Chicago to end the series against the Rays on a positive note Wednesday with a 4-1 win at Tropicana Field.

“We used the same game plan but a little different fastball so we were able to use that a little better,” Flexen said. “I just tried to keep guys off and boosting what the guys were on.”

Flexen finished the night allowing one run in six innings, tying a career high with eight strikeouts, and he also allowed just one walk. The only real blemish on Flexen’s night came at the bottom of the fourth inning when he allowed singles by Yandy Díaz and Harold Ramirez followed by an RBI double by Isaac Paredes.

“His [fastball] velocity was higher,” White Sox manager Pedro Grifol said. “He was [mostly] 92-94, [almost] touched 95. When his velocity is up like that, he’s tough to hit. “He comes from a weird angle, you know, way up top with some extension.”

It was the second dominant outing against the Rays this season for Flexen, who also picked up the win against Tampa Bay after tossing five-plus scoreless innings during the team’s late April series.

“He kind of has had our number,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “He’s kept us off balance quite a bit with the cutter, the curveball, popped some big fastballs in there with two strikes. But really, he’s mixed very well against us and kind of given us fits.”

Heading into Wednesday’s game, the White Sox had averaged just 2.31 runs of support for Flexen this season, the eighth lowest among Major League pitchers with at least four games started this season.

After being held scoreless by Rays starter Aaron Civale through the first four innings, the Chicago bats finally came alive in the top of the fifth after Bryan Ramos doubled off the top of the wall in left, just out of reach of Randy Arozarena to start things off.

“Two more pushups,” Ramos said of how close he was to his first Major League home run.

Paul DeJong immediately followed that up with a towering blast that had more than enough pushups behind it. Chicago followed that up with another two-spot in the sixth after Andrew Benintendi doubled off the top of the wall in right to lead things off before RBI singles by Ramos and Tommy Pham made it a three-run lead.

“Overall, it was a really, really clean game all the way around,” Grifol said.

“Offensively, we got the big hit when we needed it. Defensively, we made the play when we needed it. And, you know, our pitching was really good today.”

Homecoming for Leasure
As a kid growing up in the South Shore region of Tampa Bay, White Sox rookie Jordan Leasure could look across the Bay and see the dome of Tropicana Field silhouetted above the waterfront skyline of St. Pete, especially on nights when it was lit up in orange. Along with his grandfather, Leasure attended hundreds of games as a kid. He always dreamed of being one of those players in a big league uniform, out there on the turf.

With about 100 of his family, friends and former teammates cheering him on during the game, the 25-year old was more than just a fan, making his childhood dream come true. Even though he didn’t get another chance Wednesday to pitch in the stadium he grew up watching games in, he appreciated the support.

“Walking out on the field was weirdly familiar because I’ve seen it many times,” Leasure said. “But it was different being in the dugout, sitting in the bullpen getting those kinds of views. “It was super cool.”

The White Sox acquired Leasure at the Trade Deadline in a deal that included the Dodgers’ No. 9 prospect Nick Natrini and more, and they sent Lance Lynn and Joe Kelly to Los Angeles. Leasure has proven to be the early gem of that deal as he has worked his way into a setup man role by not allowing a run in his first seven big league appearances and allowing just four runs in his first 14 innings.

“I don’t think that he is afraid of anything,” Grifol said. “He’s got confidence in his abilities and the weapons to go with that, and that is a good combination to have.”

 
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