Dunn's two-run homer in the bottom of the sixth inning gave Chris Sale the cushion he needed as the White Sox defeated the Tampa Bay Rays 5-2 Thursday night at U.S. Cellular Field. Dunn connected on a 0-and-1 pitch from Rays starter Jeremy Hellickson (1-2) and parked it into the right field stands for his fourth homer of the season. Alex Rios, who walked ahead of Dunn, also scored. "Late in the game, if you give Chris a three-run lead, we kind of like our chances," Dunn said. "We were able to get him a lead early, and whenever you give your ace a lead early, you have a pretty good chance to win it." Even with Thursday's two-run shot, Dunn has just three hits (two homers, double) in his past 50 at-bats (.060 over 13 games). While he walked three times in Wednesday's win over the Cleveland Indians, Dunn has remained mired in one of the worst slumps of his career. "It's hard to sit here and tell everybody you feel good and the results aren't there, but I do feel good, I have felt good for the most part of the season, and obviously the results aren't where I want them," Dunn said. "But it's been a pretty good couple of days and gives me something to build on." The White Sox (9-12) have now won their past two games after a four-game losing streak. "We have not hit the ball like we're capable of all year," Dunn said. "I can't really think of one game to where we've done what I think and a lot of people think we're capable of doing. If we continue to get the pitching and hopefully our bats will heat up eventually, there's no doubt in my mind we can do it." Chicago manager Robin Ventura remembers a similar circumstance last season quite well, starting off 17-21, then going on a streak in which his club won 13 of its next 14. "As far as the way everything's going the last couple nights, you're starting to get momentum of playing the way you want to play," Ventura said.
Sale, who also has struggled this season, was in much better form, allowing two runs and four hits in seven innings. He struck out seven and walked four. "He ended up kind of righting the ship and finally getting in sync," Ventura said of Sale (2-2). "He's a good enough pitcher that he battled through it and get you where you need." The loss was only the second for the Rays (10-12) in their past seven games. Hellickson gave up five runs on five hits and four walks in six innings. He struck out eight. "The second to the fifth inning was, I think, as good as I've thrown," Hellickson said. "Then I go out in the sixth, walk the leadoff guy and then I had a pretty stupid pitch to Dunn right there, and then I kind of settled down again. But it was a little too late by then." Tampa Bay took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first. Desmond Jennings walked, moved to second on an infield groundout and scored on Evan Longoria's single to left field. The White Sox came back with three runs in their half of the inning. Alejandro De Aza and Jeff Keppinger had back-to-back doubles to tie the game. Rios walked, and Paul Konerko singled to left, scoring Keppinger and pushing Rios to third. Conor Gillaspie hit a sacrifice fly to score Rios. "It was a good first inning for us, to get on the board early," Ventura said. "After you give up one and then you come back and go ahead, and the big one that Adam's later to tack on, so he had a good night." As for Hellickson, an Iowa native who had a large family contingent on hand to watch him pitch, he once again was beset by first-inning struggles. Eight of the 15 runs he's allowed this season have come in the opening frame. "I just couldn't get the ball down is the main thing," Hellickson said. "They took advantage of it. I couldn't make a pitch when I needed to." Added Rays manager Joe Maddon, "From my perspective, everything was up and then all of a sudden, he made a nice adjustment in the latter part of that inning. Moving into the second, he looked a whole lot better." Tampa Bay made it a 3-2 game in the fourth on Jose Lobaton's first homer of the season, a solo effort with two out. After not allowing an extra-base hit to the New York Yankees in the last two games of their series, the Rays gave up four (three doubles and Dunn's homer) to the White Sox, who had a total of seven hits in the game. Addison Reed, who pitched the ninth for Chicago, got his seventh save. NOTES: Rays shortstop Yunel Escobar did not play. He remains day-to-day after leaving Wednesday's game vs. the Yankees in the sixth inning because of tightness in his right hamstring. ... Rays designated hitter Luke Scott continued his rehab assignment Thursday at Class A Charlotte. There's no word on when Scott will return to the big-league team from the right calf strain that put him on the DL back on March 24. ... Wednesday's 3-0 win over the Yankees gave the Rays the lead in shutouts (five) in the American League.
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