A steady force much of the season, the White Sox bullpen faltered on Monday night.
Mikie Mahtook singled with two outs in the ninth inning off David Robertson to lift the Tampa Bay Rays to a 5-4 victory in front of 16,496 at U.S. Cellular Field. Robertson, Zach Duke and Jake Petricka all surrendered runs in consecutive innings as the White Sox lost for the fourth time in five tries to fall to 50-54. Jose Abreu and Carlos Sanchez both homered in the losing effort, and the White Sox stranded a man in scoring position after the potential tying run was thrown out at home with no outs in the ninth.
“They’re human — we know that,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said of his bullpen. “You regroup. We’ve been really good in those situations with those guys. They’ve been very effective for us, and it’s a tough one. It’s tough tonight. You come back and you get the lead and (Tampa Bay puts) up runs in every inning — the seventh, eighth and ninth — and it’s tough but you’ve got to be able to handle it and get back out there.”
Robertson looked as if he might get out of a jam in the ninth despite having runners on the corners and one out. After a walk of Logan Forsythe and a one-out single by Asdrubal Cabrera, Robertson struck out James Loney. He blew a first-pitch fastball by Mahtook, who entered the at-bat with a .161 average. But Robertson hung a 0-1 curveball, and Mahtook yanked it into left for a go-ahead single.
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Grady Sizemore hit a game-tying solo homer off Duke in the eighth inning. Sizemore also started a go-ahead rally in the seventh with a double off Jake Petricka, and he advanced to third on an error by Avisail Garcia. Evan Longoria doubled off Petricka to give Tampa Bay a 3-2 lead.
“It's not too often you're going to see Jake, myself and David each give up a run,” Duke said. “In my case, I threw a cutter that was supposed to be away and instead, it spun right in the middle of the plate right in his swing."
“It's a tough night. We take it hard out there for sure.”
What looked to be a slow night for the White Sox offense picked up in a hurry in the sixth inning. With one out and down two, Tyler Saladino slashed a single to right center, his team’s second hit of the game off starter Nathan Karns. Abreu followed the effort with a two-run, game-tying homer to center that just got over the glove of a leaping Kevin Kiermaier at the fence.
An inning later and down by a run, Garcia doubled to left center with one out off reliever Steve Geltz and moved to third on a wild pitch. With the infield in, Sanchez crushed a 1-1 fastball from Geltz for a two-run homer to right to put the White Sox ahead 4-3.
Down a run, the White Sox continued to fight in the ninth as Alexei Ramirez singled off Brad Boxberger and stole second base. Adam LaRoche then singled to shallow center, but Ramirez was sent home by third-base coach Joe McEwing and thrown out easily with LaRoche advancing to second on the play. Boxberger struck out Garcia and Sanchez lined out to right field to strand the tying run.