Tampa Bay (52-81) at Chicago (78-54)

Cloudy Currently: Chicago, IL
Temp: 36° F
  • Game info: 2:05 pm EDT Thu Aug 31, 2006
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MORTON GROVE, Ill. (AP)—Jermaine Dye is doing whatever he can to help the Chicago White Sox make consecutive trips to the playoffs for the first time in franchise history.

With Jim Thome re-injuring himself in his first game back, the White Sox need everything they can get from Dye, their MVP candidate.

Dye and the White Sox look to increase their lead in the wild-card race and complete a sweep of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays as the teams wrap up their three-game series at U.S. Cellular Field on Thursday.

Chicago (78-54) won its third straight Wednesday, 5-4 to move 1 1/2 games ahead of Minnesota in the wild-card race after the Twins lost to Kansas City 4-3. The White Sox are 4 1/2 behind Central Division-leading Detroit.

Tadahito Iguchi tied the game with a two-out, two-run homer for the White Sox, and Jim Thome drove in Dye with the winning run as the White Sox scored three times in the eighth inning.

Dye entered Wednesday’s game with just five steals on the season, but stole second twice. He went on to score both times.

“Jermaine’s not going to steal a bunch of bases, but if you don’t pay attention to him, he’ll get them in a heartbeat,” first baseman Paul Konerko said.

Dye, last season’s World Series MVP, is batting .390 (16-for-41) with six home runs, 15 RBIs and 12 runs during his 10-game hitting streak.

“I’m in a position in the order now where I’ve got to make things happen and get on for guys behind me and do whatever I can to get across the plate to score runs to help us win,” said Dye, who has batted third in the order the last six games for Thome.

He’s likely to do that again Thursday, as Thome aggravated his hamstring injury coming out of the batter’s box and will sit out the series finale. Thome, who had missed the previous five games, left for a pinch-runner right after his go-ahead hit.

“This one, I felt it and instantly shut it down,” said Thome, who went 2-for-4. “I called for Ozzie (Guillen) to put in a runner because I didn’t want to do anything worse.”

Javier Vazquez (11-8, 5.06 ERA) looks to keep Chicago rolling when he takes the mound Thursday. The right-hander has not won since Aug. 10, going 0-2 with a 4.50 ERA in his last three starts.

He allowed two runs in 5 2-3 innings of a 5-4 loss to Minnesota on Friday, not factoring in the decision. Vazquez allowed only three hits and no runs through five innings, but the Twins scored four times in the sixth.

“He’s pitching great and all of a sudden, out of nowhere, guys just start hitting him hard,” catcher A.J. Pierzynski said. “It seems like he’s cruising right along, in complete control, and right out of nowhere, they throw up a four-spot.”

Vazquez has had trouble pitching late into games, lasting at least seven innings in only six of his 25 starts. Opponents are batting .223 against him their first and second time through the order, but .354 against him their third and fourth time around.

Vazquez is 3-1 with a 5.20 ERA in six starts against the Devil Rays (52-81), but lost his only start against them this season. He gave up five runs and eight hits in seven innings of a 5-4 loss May 18.

Tampa Bay is 1-22 on the road since June. Wednesday’s loss was the Rays’ 12th straight away from home, one shy of the franchise record set from June 19-July 20, 2002.

Rookie Jason Hammel (0-2, 7.71) makes his second start for Tampa Bay on Thursday after being recalled from Triple-A Durham last week.

Hammel made two starts for the Rays in April, going 0-1 and allowing 10 runs in 8 1-3 innings before being sent down.

The 23-year-old right-hander looked much better in his third major league start, giving up two runs and five hits while walking four in 5 2-3 innings of a 4-0 loss to Baltimore on Friday.

“I thought Jason did a great job,” Devil Rays manager Joe Maddon said. “He battled through some tough moments really well. He showed great composure.”

Hammel has never faced the White Sox.

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Starting Pitchers

J. Hammel ChC vs. J. Vázquez Mia
0-6 Record 11-12
7.77 ERA 4.84
32 K 184
21 BB 56
1.86 WHIP 1.29

Scoreboard

Thursday, Aug 31