ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- John Danks thought he was better than his line showed on Saturday night.
The White Sox offense wasn’t.
The Tampa Bay Rays did enough damage against Danks in the third and fourth innings to snap a five-game winning streak by the White Sox, who lost 7-2 in front of 30,451 at Tropicana Field. Danks allowed a pair of home runs and five earned runs overall as the White Sox lost for the first time since April 8 when he started the home opener. Brett Lawrie blasted a massive two-run homer for the White Sox, who didn’t manage much else against Erasmo Ramirez and three Tampa Bay relievers.
“The fourth was a little rough,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “There were some close ones in there he didn’t get it, and that’s the inning where they really got him.”
“We need to get something going. You can’t sit there and expect these guys to shut people out or give up only one. The offense needs to pick these guys up and get some runs going.”
While Danks didn’t allow any runs the first time through the Tampa Bay lineup, he struggled in his second go-round. Brandon Guyer got the Rays on the board when he ripped a solo homer with two outs in the third for a 1-0 lead.
Then the Rays broke it open in the fourth inning.
Evan Longoria singled and moved into scoring position when Desmond Jennings drew a walk after he took a close 1-2 pitch for a ball. Steven Souza Jr. followed with a one-out RBI single, but Jennings was thrown out advancing to third on the play. Brad Miller then blasted a 1-0 fastball from Danks an estimated 435 feet to right-center field to put the Rays up by four.
“I made a bad pitch to Miller,” Danks said. “I threw some good pitches down, didn’t swing, didn’t get a call, just didn’t matter. It’s the way it goes. It’s part of it. It’s baseball. But I certainly feel a lot better than I showed with the line that I put up today.”
Danks allowed another single, but retired the next eight batters he faced until he issued a one-out walk in the seventh and exited. The left-hander allowed six hits, walked three and struck out four.
The way the White Sox offense has performed of late, four runs seems like a big ask. It proved to be insurmountable.
After they scored nearly six runs per game in Arizona, the White Sox averaged four runs through their first seven regular season contests. Since then they’ve tallied 12 runs in five games as they wait for the bats of everyone not named Adam Eaton or Melky Cabrera to come around.
Heading into Saturday’s game, seven of the team’s nine starting hitters were batting .257 or lower. Through 11 games, the White Sox have a team on-base percentage of .284.
Todd Frazier is hitting .178. Jose Abreu is at .237, Avisail Garcia’s average is .171, Austin Jackson sits at .194 and the catchers are hitting .105
“I don’t expect these guys to be swinging this way all year,” Ventura said. “But right now, that’s the way it is, and you’re looking for guys to warm up a little bit.”
Ramirez kept them cool.
Working on a pitch count as he transitions into the rotation from the bullpen, Ramirez set down 11 of the first 12 he faced. He hit Abreu with a pitch in the fourth and Frazier’s pop up to the right side against a defensive shift turned into a double.
But Ramirez escaped the jam when Longoria made a great leaning catch two rows into the stands on Cabrera’s foul pop out.
It was only after Ramirez -- who allowed three hits in 5 2/3 scoreless innings -- exited that the White Sox got on the board.
Lawrie, who also singled, followed Cabrera’s one-out single in the seventh with a two-run homer off Steve Geltz that hit the C-Ring Catwalk and bounced back onto the field.
But Rays relievers combined to retire eight of the final 10 batters they faced to close out the game. It doesn’t get any easier for the White Sox on Sunday as they face Matt Moore, a former 17-game winner who has a 3.00 ERA through his first 12 innings this season.
“You’re going to have little lulls here and there,” Eaton said. “It’s not really a lull, it’s just baseball really. It’s not really falling our way offensively and that’s fine. Our pitching has stepped up. And if our pitching has lulls, our hitting has to step up. Our hitting has a ton of potential. The ceiling is extremely high. Sooner or later. There’s no worry here at all. Guys are going to come together and win the series tomorrow and keep this thing going.”