CHICAGO (AP) -- Faced with key injuries or late deficits, the Tampa Bay Rays refuse to flinch. And their lead in the AL East is increasing.
Carlos Pena's two-run single capped a four-run eighth inning, and the surging Rays rallied for a 5-3 victory Saturday over the Chicago White Sox."The phrase that we have is just keep coming," Pena said. "Keep coming, keep coming, keep coming. At-bat after at-bat, at-bat after at-bat."Pena's bases-loaded single off Matt Thornton broke a 3-all tie and sent Tampa Bay to its 11th win in 14 games. The surprising Rays, who keep winning despite injuries to Evan Longoria, Carl Crawford and Troy Percival, moved 5 1/2 games ahead of second-place Boston.Tampa Bay pulled this one out even though Chicago's Jermaine Dye hit two solo homers and Javier Vazquez retired his first 17 batters. The White Sox, who began the day a half-game behind first-place Minnesota in the AL Central, took a 3-1 lead into the eighth before unraveling.Vazquez (10-11) left to loud cheers after allowing a single to Dioner Navarro, a walk to Gabe Gross and another single by Jason Bartlett that loaded the bases with none out.Thornton came in and walked Akinori Iwamura on a 3-2 count after he fouled off seven pitches, making it a one-run game. B.J. Upton then drove a hard one-hopper off shortstop Orlando Cabrera for an infield single that tied it, and Pena followed with a single to right.After Thornton left to boos, D.J. Carrasco escaped further damage.Although he delivered the go-ahead hit, Pena was more impressed with Iwamura."That's not easy," Pena said. "You've got to be cold-blooded to be in that situation and actually only focus on seeing the ball and staying in your zone."That's exactly what Iwamura did."I knew he was a great pitcher with a great fastball," he said through a translator. "He throws real hard but I knew the situation. With the bases loaded, I was trying to get the runs in at the time."Grant Balfour (4-2) pitched a scoreless seventh for the win. Chad Bradford retired the side in the eighth and Dan Wheeler tossed a perfect ninth for his eighth save.The late rally spoiled another strong outing by Vazquez, who took the loss even though he outlasted Scott Kazmir."That was one of the toughest games for me in my career, one of the toughest that I've lost," Vazquez said. "Just being ahead like that and, boom, we lost. It was just a tough game to swallow."Vazquez did not allow a base runner until Bartlett doubled with two outs in the sixth. Iwamura followed with a single, pulling the Rays to 2-1."That was an unbelievable game Vazquez pitched today," Pena said. "Amazing. Great job. To be able to get to him in that inning and get to the bullpen, it says a lot about how much our guys battled at-bat for at-bat."But another shaky effort by a reliever cost the White Sox.This time, it was Thornton, who allowed a run and two hits besides that bases-loaded walk. On Friday, it was Octavio Dotel and Horacio Ramirez, who each allowed three runs in a 9-4 loss.Kazmir was almost as good as Vazquez early but came up short in his bid to become the fifth Tampa Bay starter with at least 10 wins. He allowed three runs and four hits in six innings, striking out seven and walking two.The lefty did not allow a hit until Dye leaned in and pulled a low-and-away pitch into the left-field seats with one out in the fourth. Dye made it 3-1 in the sixth with another shot to left, giving him 31 homers."Both those pitches that he hit out, I really liked them," Kazmir said.
Rays manager Joe Maddon set a franchise record with his 206th win, moving ahead of Larry Rothschild. ... The Rays held Rocco Baldelli out of the starting lineup after he hit his first homer in more than a year Friday. Baldelli, who returned from the DL less than two weeks ago after missing the first 116 games with a muscular disorder, entered as a pinch hitter in the eighth. ... White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said rookie Clayton Richard, who pitched six scoreless innings Tuesday against Seattle, will likely start Monday's scheduled game at Baltimore. The White Sox and Orioles also will resume a suspended game from April 28 earlier in the evening. The game was tied at 3 after 11 innings before it was stopped. ... Guillen said the White Sox will decide Monday whether to make a roster move with OF DeWayne Wise, who left Wednesday's game against the Mariners after straining a muscle near his groin.