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White Sox need Matt Albers, bullpen to provide more highlights on mound

White Sox relievers pitched 13 scoreless innings in three games against the Mets, helping the Sox bounce back from a disastrous weekend in Kansas City.

The White Sox were in desperate need of a boost in spirits when they arrived in New York on Monday. And by the time they were packing their bags at Citi Field on Wednesday, the blaring dance music and laughter showed they had received it, improbably, from Matt Albers' hitting.

Albers' double Wednesday, the first hit by a Sox reliever since Cliff Politte's single in June 2005, is a highlight that is sure to last, but what followed could be more important for their success moving forward.

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Albers caught his breath and went to the mound to finish a much-needed clean series for the bullpen. It was the group's 13th scoreless inning in three games against the Mets as the Sox won their first series in seven tries. The bullpen completed the feat despite eight walks Wednesday.

"Once he scored, he composed himself enough," manager Robin Ventura said. "He didn't get all crazy. He knew he had something left to do. It's a veteran guy who has been around and realized the situation we're in and the way the last week has been."

Entering Monday, Sox relievers were 1-7 with a 5.92 ERA in the previous 17 games and had given up 14 earned runs in 6 1/3 innings in three games against the Royals. It was a shocking spiral by a unit that started the year 4-0 with a 1.69 ERA in April.

The true nature of the group probably falls somewhere in between, but the Sox hope a veteran cast is on its way back up and will limit such slumps.

"The bullpen was probably the primary culprit in Kansas City, but we certainly weren't going to be in as good of a position as we were early in the season without the success from the bullpen," general manager Rick Hahn said. "There's still a lot of reason to believe in the upside there as well."

Zach Duke said the problem was the relievers were struggling at the same time, so Ventura couldn't give one pitcher a few days to get his mind right while the others picked him up.

But closer David Robertson, Duke and Albers boast a combined 32 seasons of big-league experience, and Duke said that helps them not to panic during such downturns.

"That's kind of the way the game goes," Duke said. "You get on hot streaks. You get on cold streaks. It just so happened we all kind of hit a cold streak at the same time. We know we're capable of having another month like we did in the first month. We're just glad that hopefully that stretch is over."

Duke said the group is able to "build each other up" during poor stretches.

"I don't think anybody has to be the rah-rah, motivational guy," Duke said. "We talk with each other all the time and spend a lot of time with each other away from the field. We know how to deal with one another, and what makes us tick."

The slump had gotten bad enough that superstition crept in.

Robertson, who usually wears high socks over his pants, wore his pants down Tuesday, his first appearance since allowing six earned runs in the ninth inning of Saturday's loss to the Royals.

"Yeah, listen, we're mixing it up," he said afterward. "We needed a win, so I went with them down."

Robertson earned his 13th save Tuesday, then threw 42 pitches in two scoreless innings Wednesday.

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In their next 12 games, the Sox face the Tigers six times, the Royals three times and the National League East-leading Nationals three times. While the offense continues to be spotty, the bullpen of April would be a useful weapon.

"We needed that," Albers said. "Especially to win a series going into an off day and a big series against Detroit coming up, we really needed this win. It's going to be a good, happy flight."

Twitter @ChiTribKane

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