Baldelli homers as Rays beat White Sox

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CHICAGO (AP)—With one big swing, Rocco Baldelli gave a big indication that he is finally feeling better.

He hit his first homer in more than a year, Carlos Pena and Ben Zobrist also went deep and the Tampa Bay Rays opened a weekend showdown against the Chicago White Sox with a 9-4 victory on Friday.

“I just want to get back into the swing of things where I feel comfortable and it’s not a big deal when I go through a game and do something well,” said Baldelli, sidelined most of the past two seasons with injuries and ailments. “I just want to contribute to what’s going on here. It’s awesome.”

Chicago’s Nick Swisher homered in his fourth straight game, giving the White Sox a 2-0 lead with a two-run shot in the fourth, but the Rays came back.

Pena tied it at 2 with a leadoff homer in the sixth, and Jason Bartlett doubled in the go-ahead run off John Danks in the seventh, sending Tampa Bay to its 10th win in 13 games.

The Rays maintained a 4 1/2 -game lead over Boston in the AL East, and they continued to win even though Troy Percival, Evan Longoria and Carl Crawford are on the disabled list.

They began the day tied with Los Angeles for the AL’s best record and, after taking two of three from the Angels, kept the momentum going against one of baseball’s hottest teams. The White Sox had won eight of nine and had a 46-9 scoring edge over the previous four games while pounding out 14 homers—but they were victimized by the long ball this time.

One of the big blows came from Baldelli, who returned from the DL less than two weeks ago.

Sidelined for the first 116 games with a muscular disorder after missing much of last season with hamstring injuries, Baldelli looked just fine against Octavio Dotel in the eighth. He drove an 0-1 pitch over the left-field wall for his first homer since May 3, 2007, against Minnesota.

“Taking some time off isn’t always the easiest thing to do, but I feel like I’m able to do it OK and not lose my swing by taking days off,” said Baldelli, who did not play in the Los Angeles series. “It did feel pretty good tonight.”

After Willy Aybar doubled, Zobrist chased Dotel when he drove a 3-2 pitch out to right to make it 6-2.

Chicago’s Alexei Ramirez hit a two-run homer off J.P. Howell in the bottom half, his fourth homer in five games, but the Rays added three more runs in the ninth.

The White Sox had the leadoff man on in seven innings but got little to show for it. They stranded eight and were 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position.

“One thing I talked about before the game is we can’t do two things, walk people and commit errors because of their propensity to hit home runs,” manager Joe Maddon said. “We got away with it tonight, but you can’t expect to do that all the time. We were fortunate.”

Edwin Jackson (10-8) became the Rays’ fourth 10-game winner despite six shaky innings. He allowed seven hits and two runs, struck out five and walked five while improving to 5-1 in his last six starts.

Danks (10-6) lasted 6 1-3 innings, allowing five hits and three runs. But from the start, he knew this wasn’t his night.

“In the second or third inning, I told the guys tonight was the epitome of being effectively wild,” he said. “I was getting away with some stuff. I was missing my spots.”

Pena had two hits and scored two runs while driving in two. Baldelli and Dioner Navarro added two hits and two runs apiece.

Ken Griffey Jr. went 2-for-4 with a run after hitting his first homer with the White Sox against Seattle on Wednesday. The 13-time All-Star had just nine hits in his first 43 at-bats after the trade from Cincinnati.

The last time these teams met, White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen unleashed a rant that seemed aimed at general manager Kenny Williams and hitting coach Greg Walker. He called for roster changes while saying his job and Walker’s were in jeopardy after watching his team go 5-for-39 with runners in scoring position while dropping three of four May 29-June 1.

There were no firings and no major roster moves, although they did acquire Griffey at the trade deadline.

This time, Guillen’s tone was different.

“That’s kind of a weird feeling about the situation here in Chicago,” he said. “We lose a game and all the sudden we are down the tank. I don’t know if it’s people waiting for us to fail or people don’t just believe in the White Sox.”


Rays manager Joe Maddon won his 205th game, tying Larry Rothschild’s club record. … Ramirez now has 15 homers, the most by a White Sox rookie second baseman. … Chicago DH Jim Thome, a late scratch Wednesday against Seattle with what he called a “little bit of a lower abdominal thing,” went 0-for-1 with three walks.

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