The Tampa Bay Rays had matched their season high with three straight losses entering their series against the Chicago White Sox, but the way the majors’ best team has pitched this year, another victory never seems far off.
One day after Jeff Niemann(notes) pitched eight strong innings to snap the Rays’ skid, David Price(notes) will go after his AL-leading eighth victory as the White Sox continue their four-game set in St. Petersburg on Friday night.
Tampa Bay (33-15) regrouped from a three-game sweep by Boston at Tropicana Field as Niemann’s standout performance helped the Rays beat Chicago 5-1 on Thursday.
Starting pitching has been the foundation of Tampa Bay’s impressive start. Despite a few shaky performances this week, Rays starters lead the majors with a 2.91 ERA.
“They’re a good team,” White Sox right-hander Gavin Floyd(notes) said. “They have a lot of tools. They’ve got speed, they’ve got power, play defense real well and have good pitching. They’re all around a good team.”
Price (7-1, 2.41 ERA) has won his last four starts, beating Houston on Sunday despite his worst outing of the year. He gave up a season-high five runs in five innings of the 10-6 victory.
“We just cannot pitch with that kind of effectiveness every night. It’s just not going to happen,” manager Joe Maddon said after that game. “You have to do all those different things in order to win as many games as we have.”
The White Sox are the only team that has beaten Price this year, scoring three runs against him in five innings of their 4-1 home win April 20. Chicago, though, has since dropped three straight to the Rays.
The young left-hander is 0-2 with a 5.73 ERA in two career starts against Chicago. Paul Konerko(notes) and Alex Rios(notes) are both 4 for 6 with a home run against him, while Andruw Jones(notes) is 3 for 8 with two homers.
Garcia (3-3, 5.68) hopes to bounce back from his shortest outing of the season. After winning his previous three starts, he gave up seven runs - including three homers - in 2 1-3 innings of a 13-0 loss to Florida on Sunday.
“I’ve been pitching not too bad,” Garcia said. “I tried to go away today and my ball and was coming inside to the plate. I didn’t make good pitches.”
Home runs have been a problem for the veteran, who has allowed at least one homer in seven of eight starts.
Carl Crawford(notes) and Evan Longoria(notes) took Floyd deep Thursday, with Longoria ending an 11-game drought without a homer. Tampa Bay’s offense, which totaled 23 runs while taking two of three from the White Sox last month, had been held to four runs while getting swept by the Red Sox.
“We swung the bats pretty well,” Crawford said. “Hopefully that’s a sign of things to come.”
The White Sox (20-27) have struggled with consistency, alternating wins and losses in their last six games. They’ll be without manager Ozzie Guillen on Friday as he attends his son’s high school graduation.