ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The White Sox starting rotation could use James Shields in the worst way right about now.
Derek Holland was the latest White Sox starting pitcher to get hit hard when he got roughed up on Thursday night. Holland allowed three home runs and put the White Sox in a huge hole from with which they could not climb out of against the Tampa Bay Rays. Avisail Garcia blasted a three-run homer, but it was too late for the White Sox, who fell 7-5 to the Rays in front of 8,971 at Tropicana Field. Holland allowed six earned runs for the White Sox, whose starting pitchers have a 7.90 ERA in six games on the team’s current 1-5 road trip.
“Whatever the opposition does, we just have to counter it,” manager Rick Renteria said. “It’s hard to do that in the big leagues every single day, but they’ll get better. Our starting rotation is better than it has shown over the last seven or eight days. We’ll continue to make improvements, no doubt about it, but we have to keep pushing. We have to keep playing. We can’t quit. It’s a long season.”
Holland retired the side in order in the first inning, but it was the only easy frame he had all evening. The lefty issued a one-out walk in the second inning to Tim Beckham and Kevin Kiermaier doubled him in to make it 1-0. The inning might have been worse if it weren’t for Tampa’s poor base running. Kiermaier was thrown out in a run down on Daniel Robertson’s fielder’s choice and Robertson also got cut down trying to race to third while the White Sox tracked down the lead runner.
Derek Norris belted his first homer of the night to lead off the third inning and put the Rays ahead 2-0. Three more singles later, including Evan Longoria’s dome-aided pop up to right, put Tampa up by three runs.
Norris stretched the lead to 5-0 when he belted a two-run shot off Holland in the fourth inning and Peter Bourjos followed with a solo homer to stretch the lead to six.
It was the second straight rough turn for Holland, who gave up eight runs in Detroit on Friday.
Collectively, White Sox starting pitchers have yielded 25 runs (24 earned) and 40 hits in 27 1/3 innings since leaving Chicago. Starters have also walked 14 and struck out 17.
“No excuse,” Holland said. “I have to pitch better than that. Too many walks is the most frustrating thing and if you make a mistake, these guys will capitalize. A very frustrating day for me. I’m not happy with that.”
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Thursday was the second rehab outing for Shields, who allowed a run and four hits in five innings for Triple-A Charlotte. Prior to heading out on his rehab assignment, Shields said he hoped he’d need only two starts before he could return to the White Sox.
Much like they have all season, the White Sox didn’t give in despite the deficit. Todd Frazier said Renteria held an in-dugout pep talk in the fifth inning. Frazier led off the inning with a single and Tim Anderson walked, but the White Sox didn’t score.
But they did in the sixth as Garcia followed consecutive singles by Melky Cabrera and Jose Abreu in the sixth inning with a colossal three-run blast to center (446 feet) to make it a 6-3 game. Garcia — who’s hitting .330/.368/.553 with 10 homers and 42 RBIs — singled in the eighth inning and Frazier (three hits) followed with a two-run shot off the left-field foul pole to get the White Sox within a run. Anderson doubled and stole third base but was left stranded.
Colby Rasmus gave the Rays a two-run cushion with a solo homer off Gregory Infante in the eighth inning.
“That’s how we’ve been playing all year and Ricky kind of got in us a little bit in the dugout, saying ‘We’re professionals, let’s go. Pick it up a little bit,’ ” Frazier said. “Kind, that was right before I got the single so we kind of kick-started ourselves a little bit to play the game, keep playing. We fought our way back. We had a chance to tie it or win it. True grit, that’s how we’ve been playing. We’ve got to do that a little earlier and a little more often.”