Eighth-inning fiasco saddles Sox with series split, losing homestand
By James Fegan
Well, that eighth inning was pretty awful.
Two hours into a game where the White Sox had thrown Dylan Axelrod up against David Price and battled the Tampa Bay Rays to a 3-3 draw, Nate Jones’ rough second inning of work and Alex Rios dropping the third out of the eighth inning with the bases loaded conspired to break open a game the White Sox were never supposed to have much chance in, yet dominated the middle portion of. The 8-3 loss saddled the Sox with a series split and a 3-5 homestand, mostly against losing teams.
Jones came into the eighth after a scintillating first inning of work, but a bloop single and a walk to Matt Joyce put him in trouble with the heart of the Tampa order coming up and every core reliever fresh. Jones stayed in, and preceded to be retire neither Ben Zobrist–who laced a single through the middle to give the Rays a 4-3 advantage–nor Evan Longoria, who walked to load the bases and chased Jones out of the game.
After a James Loney situational hitting fiasco, the White Sox were still within arms-length with two outs and Jesse Crain in his typical setting: with the count ran full, the bases loaded, yet facing a thoroughly off-balance hitter in Ryan Roberts. Crain got Roberts to chase and weakly flare a fastball off the plate to short right field, but Alex Rios was admirable in the way he recovered from a slow start to sprint in and intercept, that was not as memorable as the way the ball flopped out of his glove and onto the grass, scoring two runners who were going with the pitch on two outs.
In the sunnier moments of the afternoon, the White Sox led 3-1 through the first five innings. Paul Konerko hammered a hanging slurve on the inner-half in the bottom of the third for a two-run homer to break an early tie. Between the welcome return of his power and Adam Dunn’s solid RBI single in the first inning, it was a pretty productive day for the Sox’ duo of statuesque sluggers. It was also all the Sox mustered against Price, who after falling behind every hitter early, found himself with seven innings of work and nine strikeouts at the end of the day.
Dylan Axelrod was notably serviceable, sneaking through a bare minimum quality start (6 IP, 3 ER) despite barely throwing a preponderance of strikes (49 of 90). Bad luck–or simple realities of the setting–could be blamed for two towering fly balls off the bats of Jose Lobaton and Matt Joyce carrying in the wind over the right field wall and accounting for the only damage against Axelrod. Good luck might be cited for Evan Longoria not doing anything with 86 mph fastballs that split the plate, or James Loney. In all, he got what he deserved from the Rays, just not the White Sox.
Deunte Heath, fresh off being recalled to replace Gavin Floyd on the roster, came on in the ninth and ensured that no one would remember this as an interesting and competitive game, allowing two runs.
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