Sox 'all shook up' after Rays rally
South Siders fall from first place on 'Elvis Night' at U.S. Cellular
CHICAGO -- Prior to starting his brief interview session following the White Sox 9-4 loss to the Rays on Friday, Nick Swisher excused himself and quickly leaned back into his locker.
Swisher returned with a plastic Elvis wig, although it looked more like the pompadour belonging to a band member from The Romantics or sitting atop the statue at a Big Boy's restaurant, and dark shades. He put them on in honor of the traditional Elvis Night that had taken place at U.S. Cellular Field.
Clearly, the White Sox (73-54) weren't overly distraught concerning their five-game winning streak coming to a close in front of the ballpark's 14th sellout crowd of the season, a loss which also dropped them one-half game behind the Twins (74-54) in the American League Central.
"One loss won't get our spirits down," Swisher said. "Some of these games happen. This is how pennant races are. You won't win them all."
The first baseman actually gave the White Sox a brief 2-0 lead in the fourth by launching his 21st home run on a 3-2 pitch from Edwin Jackson with Ken Griffey Jr. on first. This blast marked the first time Swisher had homered in four straight games during his career, becoming the first White Sox player to accomplish such a feat since Jim Thome from April 9-13, 2006.
Jackson (10-8) actually gave Chicago ample opportunity to score over the first five innings, with the leadoff hitter reaching base in every frame. At least two hitters reached base off of Jackson in each of the first four innings, but the White Sox only scored on Swisher's long ball.
"We had chances," said White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen, whose team couldn't take full advantage of seven hits off of Jackson in six innings, to go with five walks. "We had men on second base three times with less than two outs, and we couldn't get it done. We had a couple chances here and there but we didn't take advantage, and they did.
"Every time they had a chance, they hit the ball, put the ball in play. And all of a sudden, they opened the gates and all those runs came in."
Tampa Bay (78-49) chipped away at John Danks (10-6) with one run in the fifth and the game-tying run in the sixth on Carlos Pena's leadoff homer. The Rays took the lead, en route to the Majors' best overall record, courtesy of doubles from Dioner Navarro and Jason Bartlett in the seventh.
Danks exited after Bartlett connected, allowing three runs on seven hits in 6 1/3 innings. He suffered career loss No. 1 against the Rays and fell to 7-2 with a 3.25 ERA in 16 starts since May 29. Although the offense deserved its fair share of the blame for this series-opening loss, Danks took the brunt of it on his shoulders.
"When these guys gave me the runs, it was on me to keep them there and get to the seventh or eighth inning so that we could get to the back end of the bullpen," said Danks, who threw 62 of his 99 pitches for strikes. "I really didn't do that, so I can't help but take full [blame]."
Trailing by one run in the seventh, the White Sox put runners on first and second with one out and Carlos Quentin and Jermaine Dye coming to the plate. It appeared to be a perfect scenario for the host squad, until Grant Balfour entered the game and struck out Quentin looking on a 3-2 pitch, and then fanned Dye swinging.
"Two good hitters," Balfour said. "Quentin is probably one of the better hitters in the league this year. And Jermaine Dye is a good hitter, too. I've got a lot of respect for both of those guys. But that's my job to come in and face guys like that. And I'm happy to get the job done tonight."
"They scored a lot of runs today, but their pitching staff is pretty solid," Guillen added. "They're pitching well."
Any chance for a White Sox rally was erased by the bullpen. Octavio Dotel allowed three runs in the eighth without retiring any of the three hitters he faced, increasing the deficit to 6-2. Alexei Ramirez homered in the bottom half off J.P. Howell, his two-run shot setting a franchise record for home runs by a rookie second baseman at 15. Ramirez also has four homers and 14 RBIs in his past five games.
But Horacio Ramirez and Adam Russell combined to allow three more runs in the ninth, taking away the remaining late suspense. The setback dropped the White Sox to 3-5 against the Rays this season, having lost four of their last five head-to-head matchups.
In those eight games, Chicago has outscored Tampa Bay, 28-25. So, the South Siders seem to match up fairly well. They have two more games this weekend to prove that fact true, and judging by Swisher's postgame tribute to Elvis, their confidence certainly hasn't crumbled.
"You cant be surprised that a team like that gets you the first game of the series," Dotel said. "But there's two more games. There's nothing over yet."
"It's kind of funny -- we lose a game and people think we're done," Guillen added. "That's kind of a weird feeling, this situation here in Chicago. We lose a game, and all of a sudden we're down the tank. I don't know if people are waiting for us to fail, or people don't believe in the White Sox. I think we can compete against everybody. I think we have a good ballclub."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.