Through 7½ innings, this game already had its perfect storyline for the White Sox.
Adam Eaton, who had a pregame argument with Mark Parent over starting the game on the bench, pinch-hit to lead off the eighth and drew the first walk issued by Chris Archer in 107 batters. Rays manager Kevin Cash lifted Archer for Brad Boxberger. Parent countered with Conor Gillaspie, who turned on an 0-2 fastball and crushed it out to right to give the Sox a 4-3 lead and a helluva redemption story.
Unfortunately, they still had to get through two more innings. And, as it turned out, they only had to pitch one of them.
The Rays came up with two runs in the ninth, which is bad enough. The Sox themselves helped the Rays score both of them -- and after Zach Putnam retired the first two batters -- and that's why this loss leaves a mark.
Putnam gave up a mashed two-out single through the box by David DeJesus. It was 14th pitch of the inning, and the first one that wasn't a splitter.
Steven Souza Jr. followed, and Putnam locked horns with him -- to his detriment, as DeJesus stole second on a 1-2 splitter in the dirt. After throwing four splitters to an even count, Putnam threw four more splitters, and Souza fouled off all of them.
Then he threw a ninth splitter, and Souza shot a single through the left side. Souza never had to look for another pitch or another eye level, and eventually he was able to square it up. DeJesus scored, and the inning wasn't done.
With Asdrubal Cabrera at the plate, Souza stole second. He was initially ruled out, and while Cash had lost his challenge, he was able to get an official review, since it was in the last three innings. The replay showed Souza was easily safe, and that 90 feet became critical.
Putnam intentionally walked Cabrera, Jake Petricka came in to get Nick Franklin, and Petricka got the grounder he was supposed to get. Alexei Ramirez had to range far to his left, though, snagging it on a slide. He only had one option -- a flip to second -- but he flung it well wide of Gordon Beckham. The ball rolled helplessly toward the mound while Souza sprinted home, and the Rays regained the lead under pretty awful circumstances for the Sox.
Jake McGee took over in the ninth and complicated matters by walking Beckham and giving up a single to Eaton. Emilio Bonifacio pinch-hit for Gillaspie and struck out, and Flowers popped out to seal a pretty awful loss.
Lost in the disastrous end was a decent start for Jeff Samardzija. He gave up his customary first-inning run, and the defense put a third run on his tab (Ramirez bobbled a grounder on an infield-in scenario), but Samardzija ended up battling Tampa Bay ace Archer to a draw, as both had a game scores of 59:
- Samardzija: 7 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 7 K, 1 HBP
- Archer: 7 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 5 K
Archer came into this game on a historical roll, becoming the first pitcher in known MLB history to strike out 10 without issuing a walk in three straight starts.
The Sox landed a punch early, as Ramirez singled, moved to second on a wild pitch and scored on a Jose Abreu single for a quick 1-0 lead. The Rays tied it on an Evan Longoria single, then took the lead in the third on a Longoria groundout.
Archer had retired eight in a row after Ramirez lined out to start the fourth, but the Sox struck again. Jose Abreu singled to right, and Adam LaRoche contracted oppo fever by singling to left. An Avisail Garcia fielder's choice put runners on the corners with two outs, and an attack-mode Melky Cabrera lined a first-pitch changeup into center to tie the game.
The Sox were aggressive with Archer, for better (only five strikeouts) or for worse (Archer only threw 85 pitches to get through seven). However, his breaking ball had been floating increasingly higher, and while Gordon Beckham struck out on such a ball four to end the sixth, Eaton was able to lay off to start the seventh.
If there's one regret offensively, the Sox could've scored more than two in the seventh. Even after the Gillaspie homer, the Sox offense kept rolling. J.B. Shuck reached on an infield single, and Ramirez dumped a single to right, bringing up the heart of the order. But Abreu chased a Box(berger) cutter off the plate for a strikeout, LaRoche grounded into a fielder's choice, and Garcia swung through a fastball to end the threat.
Still, this one's on the run prevention unit. They were able to beat Dallas Keuchel last series, and having a late-inning lead against another All-Star candidate in Archer with two innings to go should've been sufficient. Alas.