ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Alexei Ramirez and the White Sox bullpen let one get away on Saturday evening.
Shortly after Zach Putnam allowed a game-tying single, a Ramirez throwing error allowed the go-ahead run to score as the White Sox lost to the Tampa Bay Rays, 5-4, in front of 20,248 at Tropicana Field. Instead of Jeff Samardzija earning a huge victory courtesy of a two-run, pinch-hit homer by Conor Gillaspie, the White Sox lost their second in a row to start a five-game road trip.
“If you looked at last year Kansas City goes to the World Series, the Giants winning the World Series, they win close ballgames,” center fielder Adam Eaton said. “They may squeak a few out where they say they shouldn’t have won that game. That’s what makes good teams great. We have to find that way. We have to find late in a ballgame, like we did tonight hitting the two-run home run. We have to find a way to win, win late and win close games.”
With the score tied, two on and two out in the eighth, Ramirez — who missed out on an earlier critical play, too — tracked down Jake Elmore’s infield single behind second base. But the shortstop’s flip was several feet wide of Gordon Beckham at second, which allowed Steven Souza Jr. to easily score from third.
Souza had tied the game with a two-out single to left off Putnam. David DeJesus singled with two outs in the eighth and stole second without a throw to set up the rally.
An inning earlier and with the infield drawn in, Ramirez couldn’t get the ball out of his glove on a routine grounder and one out and instead settled for a play at first as the White Sox fell behind 3-2.
“Very tough finish,” bench coach Mark Parent said. “Shark did a great job.
“He did the job, we got the lead, ground ball here and there, we make a play here and there we need to make we could have won the ballgame.
“(Ramirez) does need to make those plays. He’s made them before. Ball gets stuck in your glove, you know, it happens. It seems like things like that happen too often. Not just to him, but to us that end up adding outs, adding base runners and not getting outs. Those things are adding up too frequently.”
The White Sox battled all day against Rays ace Chris Archer and grabbed a one-run lead in the top of the eighth on Gillaspie’s homer off reliever Brad Boxberger.
The White Sox quickly got to Archer, scoring only their 19th first-inning run of the season. Ramirez singled and advanced on a wild pitch ahead of Jose Abreu’s broken-bat RBI single to center.
Archer retired eight hitters in a row but Abreu singled to right field with one out in the fourth and Adam LaRoche singled to left. Melky Cabrera’s two-out RBI single to left tied the score at 2.
But Archer retired 10 straight into the eighth inning until Adam Eaton drew a pinch-hit walk. The free pass was the first issued by Archer since May 22, a stretch of 107 batters, and it ended his day. Gillaspie’s homer on a 0-2 pitch was the third pinch-hit homer of his career.
Though he had given up 15 earned runs in his last two starts, Samardzija kept up with Archer. He yielded what has become a customary first-inning run on Evan Longoria’s one-out RBI single. The Rays added another in the third on Longoria’s RBI groundout.
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But Samardzija got DeJesus to fly out to strand a runner at third in the third and took off. He retired the side in the fourth and sixth innings and struck out the side in the fifth, including a called third strike to Longoria with two on and two outs. Samardzija even appeared to pitch around a one-out Nick Franklin triple in the seventh inning until Ramirez mishandled the grounder. Even though he allowed three earned runs and six hits in seven innings, Samardzija, who struck out seven and walked one, was in line for the loss until Gillaspie’s heroics.
“The lineup did a great job out there and swung early when they had to, made (Archer) work and drew a couple of walks,” Samardzija said. “Overall it was a good day. We’ve just got to finish it from beginning to end and we’re playing some good ball, so we put this one behind us and move on.
“You’ve got to make plays to win games, and that’s every day. That’s just not here and there. Winning teams come out and make big plays at big times. We keep playing hard and keep showing up and doing what we do and we’ll be there.”