The AL Central leaders won the first-ever game at Tropicana Field between teams in sole possession of first place in their divisions Thursday night, cooling off the AL East-leading Rays 5-1 before of a crowd of 12,636.
“I didn’t look at it any different than any other game. But deep down you know that they’re winning a tough East and we’re winning a tough Central, and this is a series where we feel like we can really make a statement,” White Sox pitcher John Danks said.
“This team doesn’t lose very much here at home, and we feel like if we can come in here and hopefully sweep this series, we’ll be sitting pretty headed into June.”
Danks (4-4) allowed one run and six hits in six innings to beat Edwin Jackson (3-4) for the second time this season. He pitched seven scoreless innings to beat the right-hander 6-0 on April 20, a loss that left Tampa Bay in last place at 8-11.
The Rays have gone 24-11 since then and entered Thursday tied with the Chicago Cubs for the best record in the major leagues. They’ve won nine of their last 11 series, including six straight at home since the White Sox won two of three games from them here six weeks ago.
“I feel proud of them,” said White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen, who played 63 games for the Rays in 2000, when Tampa Bay lost 92 games.
“They’re doing a tremendous job. They have unbelievable talent, they know what they’re doing. They’re going in the right direction.”
Joe Crede and Paul Konerko homered and Carlos Quentin, Jim Thome and Orlando Cabrera also drove in runs for the White Sox, who are making noise themselves with 12 wins in their last 15 games. Danks walked one and struck out eight to improve to 3-0 lifetime against the Rays.
“He pitched well,” Guillen said. “He got himself in trouble a couple of times … but he came out of it.”
Crede hit his ninth home run, a solo shot off Jackson, in the sixth inning. Konerko hit his first homer since April 27—a towering drive that bounced off one of the catwalks that support the roof in the domed stadium—leading off the eighth against Jason Hammel.
Ten of Chicago’s 11 hits were off Jackson, including RBI doubles by Thome and Cabrera. Quentin’s run-scoring single gave him 27 RBIs in May, 48 overall.
“It was a battle all day,” Jackson said. “They’re a good hitting team.”
Carl Crawford had an RBI single in the third for Tampa Bay, which earlier in the day learned it will be without closer Troy Percival for at least two weeks. The 38-year-old was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a left hamstring strain.
“We had opportunities to keep that game where we wanted. We just couldn’t get the run,” Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon said. “Danks has pitched well against us both times we’ve seen him. He’s pitching with a lot of confidence.”
Boone Logan finished up with a scoreless ninth for Chicago, extending a stretch in which the White Sox bullpen has not allowed an earned run to 27 innings over its last nine games.
Since moving to third in the White Sox batting order 15 games ago, Quentin has 19 RBIs. … Rays OF Rocco Baldelli (mitochondrial disorder), who has only played in 127 games over the past four seasons because of an assortment of injuries, went 1-for-5 as the designated hitter in an extended spring training game—his first game action since going on the 60-day DL on March 28. … The White Sox reinstated INF Danny Richar (fractured left rib) from the 15-day DL and optioned him to Triple-A Charlotte. … The Rays activated INF Willy Aybar (left hamstring) from the DL. He went 1-for-4 as the designated hitter and scored Tampa Bay’s only run. … After the game, the Rays optioned INF Ben Zobrist to Triple-A Durham and purchased the contract of RHP Grant Balfour from the minor league affiliate.