ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The White Sox didn’t have much luck on the offensive end on Wednesday and they had trouble catching the ball.
You don’t have to be a Rhodes Scholar to realize that formula isn’t going to win you many games.
Too many early mistakes and not enough firepower to combat them sent the White Sox to their sixth loss in seven games as they fell 3-1 to the Tampa Bay Rays in front of 9,313 at Tropicana Field. Mike Pelfrey took the loss, though his defense made several key mistakes during a three-run third inning by the Rays.
“We actually have played decent baseball,” manager Rick Renteria said. “We played a couple games you could say ‘That was an ugly game.’ We’ve been in games for the rest of them, just haven’t scored enough runs to overcome some deficits. But I think the guys are still playing pretty hard. Today, that wasn’t an ugly game, we just weren’t able to score enough runs to stay ahead.”
Before Wednesday’s game, Renteria stressed the importance of clean baseball for all teams, regardless of talent.
Early on, the White Sox didn’t play clean at all.
Tim Anderson committed an error in the first inning, though Pelfrey was able to work around it and leave the bases loaded. Pelfrey stranded two more runners in the second inning to keep the White Sox ahead 1-0.
But the Rays got to Pelfrey in the third inning and his defense didn’t help matters any. Evan Longoria singled to start the third and Logan Morrison doubled. Pelfrey struck out Steven Souza Jr. and intentionally walked Colby Rasmus to load the bases. Tim Beckham followed with a single to right and Avisail Garcia bobbled the ball before his high throw allowed both runners to advance into scoring position. The bobble also allowed Longoria, who had stopped at third, to score the go-ahead run.
Rasmus then scored on Daniel Robertson’s fielder’s choice to make it 3-1 when Kevan Smith was late to apply the tag after a nice throw home by Todd Frazier. Smith thought he made the tag in time but plate ump Bill Miller called safe. The White Sox didn’t challenge, Smith saying there wasn’t enough evidence to make the call.
“I knew Frazier was going to come home if he broke,” Smith said. “There was a bat in between me and (Rasmus), so that kind of worked to my advantage. He just kind of slid around it and I think on the replay there wasn’t enough … I thought I got him in the shin/knee area in plenty of time. But if you go back and look at the replay there wasn’t enough to show that I had him before his foot got the plate and we just couldn’t challenge it.”
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Pelfrey got out of the inning and pitched into the sixth. He allowed three runs (two earned) and six hits with three walks (two intentional) and four strikeouts.
“That was maybe the worst my stuff has been since I’ve been here,” Pelfrey said. “Command was pretty shaky, and for the most part I tip my hat to them for keeping me in the zone, making me throw the ball over the plate and not chasing outside of the zone. They made it tough on me. It was a grind, an absolute grind and a struggle, but I don’t necessarily think I gave in. I kept trying to make pitches to limit the damage, but I was a little off. Tampa didn’t help the matter by grinding through it. I struggled, but we got through it.”
The White Sox scored an early run against Tampa Bay rookie Jacob Faria but didn’t have much else. Jose Abreu singled in Leury Garcia in the first to put the White Sox up 1-0.
But Faria, who made his major league debut, settled in as everything the White Sox seemed to hit hard found a glove. Garcia lined out twice hard — the hit percentage of similar balls is 73 and 80, according to Baseball Savant. Abreu also lined out to third to end the sixth inning.
In all, the five hardest hit balls by the White Sox, all with a 44 percent or better of becoming a hit, were outs. Faria allowed a run and three hits in 6 1/3 innings. He struck out five and walked two.
The White Sox fared no better against the Rays bullpen as three relievers combined to retire eight of nine hitters.