While the Tampa Bay Rays may not have one of the most celebrated pitching staffs in the majors, their young starting rotation is off to an excellent start to the season.
The Rays hope to get another strong performance from one of their young arms Sunday as they wrap up their three-game series with the Chicago White Sox at Tropicana Field.
Tampa Bay (8-10) defeated Chicago 5-0 on Saturday behind Andy Sonnanstine’s three-hitter - his first career complete game.
Sonnanstine held the White Sox to just three singles, including a bunt, after Chicago had 10 hits in Friday’s series-opening 9-2 victory. The White Sox (10-7) were shut out for the first time all season.
Sonnanstine, in his second major league season, has been joined in the Rays’ starting rotation by rookie Jeff Niemann, third-year pitchers James Shields, Jason Hammel and Matt Garza, and Sunday’s scheduled starter Edwin Jackson (2-1, 2.84 ERA), who is in his third full season in the majors.
Tampa Bay is sixth in the AL with a 4.04 staff ERA, a big improvement from last year’s major league-worst 5.53 mark.
After the Rays snapped a six-game losing skid Saturday, Jackson looks to lead Tampa to its first series victory over the White Sox since May 16-18, 2006.
Jackson, though, is coming off a rough outing. He gave up five runs, four hits and four walks in five innings of a 5-3 loss to the New York Yankees on Tuesday.
“It’s just one of those games where you battle and try to keep the team in it by keeping the game as close as possible,” said the 24-year-old right-hander, who had allowed just one run and seven hits in 14 innings in winning his first two starts of the season.
In his only career start against the White Sox, Jackson gave up four runs and nine hits, including three home runs, in six innings of a 5-4 loss last Aug. 27, but was not a factor in the decision.
Chicago counters with John Danks (1-1, 4.32), who is coming off the best start of his brief career.
After being tagged for seven runs in just 2 1-3 innings of a 12-5 loss to Minnesota on April 9, Danks gave up only five hits in 7 2-3 scoreless innings of a 4-1 win over Oakland on Tuesday. It was his first victory since July 16 of his 2007 rookie season.
“I didn’t feel like I had the best stuff I’ve had, but I just kind of went out there with the best stuff I had and kind of went on from there,” Danks said. “I feel like I’m taking those steps forward and growing.”
The 23-year-old left-hander has faced the Rays once, a 5-4 win at Tropicana Field last June 25, when he gave up four runs in five innings.
Tampa Bay center fielder B.J. Upton went 3-for-4 with a run-scoring double on Saturday, and is batting .457 (16-for-35) with two home runs, two doubles and 10 RBIs in his last nine games. Upton, who also had two hits Friday, is batting .600 (15-for-25) with four RBIs in eight career games against the White Sox.