The night started inauspiciously for the Rays; White Sox leadoff hitter Juan Pierre got to 3rd base after a bunt single drew a throwing error from Evan Longoria’s temporary replacement Felipe Lopez. He was driven in on a groundout, and Rays starter Jeff Niemann seemed to collect himself rather well.
Until the third inning.
Four hits, a walk, a hit batsman, a stolen base, and 4 runs put the Rays in a big-time hole down 5-0.
The offense got 2 back in the fourth on a Sam Fuld bases-loaded single, but it would prove to be inadequate run support for the Rays starter. Since the 2010 all-star break Jeff Niemann is 5-9 with a 7.53 ERA (5.06 FIP) in 77.2 IP (h/t Jason Collette). He would allow another double before being pulled two outs into the fifth inning. Cesar Ramos would come in and give up a hit which drove in the Sox’s sixth run, closing the book on Niemann for the night. His final line of 4.2 IP, 6H, 6R (5ER), 2BB, 4SO, 0HR on 89 pitches is certainly not a pretty sight for Rays fans.
The Rays bullpen, which led the American League in ERA at 2.57 coming into the night, wasn’t particularly good either. Cesar Ramos came back out for the 6th inning, and allowed two base runners, which Adam Russell would allow to score on a Carlos Quentin double.
None of the facets of the Rays team looked particularly sharp on the evening. The offense got plenty of base runners off of Sox starter Gavin Floyd, but double plays and pickoffs would stall decent scoring chances.
Even the recently-lauded defense seemed a bit off. Besides the aforementioned Lopez error, John Jaso would throw over Casey Kotchman’s head after a swinging strikeout in the fourth, allowing the base runner to reach safely.
One bright spot for Tampa Bay was the healthy return of DH Johnny Damon, who went 1-4 on the night and showed no lingering effects of the injury to his left ring finger, which kept him out of the lineup for the last 3 games.
It was an ugly game all around for the Rays, and it resulted in an ugly outcome. This was the last scheduled meeting between the Rays and the White Sox in 2011, with the teams splitting the season series at 4 games apiece. Jeremy Hellickson takes the mound tomorrow against Jo-Jo Reyes, and his 6.42 career ERA, in Toronto. Hopefully it will be a chance for the offense to get back on track.