After jumping out to a quick lead, Tampa held off the White Sox comeback with some successful, super-high leverage relief in the eighth and ninth, and snapped its eight-game losing streak with a 5-4 win.
If not fighting off some form of frostbite yourself, you’ve probably heard that it was frighteningly frigid at Sox Park today. The grounds crew was greeted at 6 a.m. this morning by a “couple of thousand tons of snow” in the outfield grass and on top of the tarp, and somehow Roger Bossard & Co. got the field spiffy in a jif, winnowing an inevitable delay to the start of a game to only about 20 minutes. Apparently, it was some mad combo of lawnmowers as bulldozers and intermittent hosing down of the snow that did the trick.
First-pitch temperature for the ballgame was 35°, chasing temps over the weekend of 32° and 36°. The 35° opening temp qualified as the second-coldest game-time temperature in Rays history.
The frigidity flattened out walk-up sales, which after a gutting opening-weekend sweep by the moribund Detroit Tigers would have numbered, say, a half-dozen. As few as 400 fans did walk through the turnstiles today, per in-park estimates.
They were treated to a lot of baseball, on the one day fans might not have minded an hour-and-a-half Mark Buehrle Special. In the first inning alone, Sox starter Miguel González threw 32 pitches, in falling behind 1-0. El Jalisciense managed to throw another 29 pitches in the second, yet escaped with no damage.
González failed to finish the fifth, going 4 1⁄3 innings and giving up eight hits, four earned runs, two walks and a homer, without a strikeout. The righthander was so far from a K today, it took him 18 batters before he got his first swinging strike, from Tampa’s No. 9 hitter, DH Rob Refsnyder.
It’s as if the White Sox are executing a succession of bullpen days to start games, but unlike Tampa, the Chisox aren’t informing anyone of their plan.
The Rays’s first inning run came courtesy of a Carlos Gomez single, Chris Cron walk and Matt Duffy infield single. It was an aggressive send by Tampa third-base coach Matt Quatraro that resulted in Gomez scoring, and as it turned out, it may have been the last aggressive baserunning decision that paid off for the team.
Chris Archer, pitching sans sleeves and spoiling for a fight, brought it to the White Sox for the better part of his 5 2⁄3 innings. Yes, this did include some beef with Chisox head gnat, Tim Anderson, who apparently offended the ace’s sensibilities with his intermittent dancing off of third base.
If there was a game hero for Tampa, though, it would be a tough call between Mallex Smith and Sergio Romo.
Smith, purportedly a light-hitting speedster, did not get the memo before the game. The right fielder went 4-for-4 with a double, triple and two steals of third base. Possibly eliminating him from contention was the fact that he was thrown out at home on plays after both of those steals. (The Rays actually made three outs at home plate this afternoon.)
Romo came on in the seventh and would finish the eighth, facing of some high-leverage situations in both innings. His fabulous Frisbees befuddled three of Chicago’s better hitters, Anderson (to end the seventh) and Yoan Moncada and Avisail Garcia (to end the eighth).
Archer could have cruised through this one, with the amount of light contact he was inducing to go along with his eight strikeouts. But with Moncada on first and two outs, Archer left an 0-2 pitch to Nicky Delmonico over the heart of the plate, and Delmonico tattooed it for a wall-scraper 339 feet to right wall to bring the White Sox to within 4-3.
The two teams would trade runs in the sixth (Denard Span RBI single, Omar Narvaez RBI double) to close out scoring.
The White Sox were an insipid 2-for-16 with runners in scoring position today. I just had to type and retype those figures, because apparently the SB Nation system cannot understand such low RISP figures.
Carson Fulmer and James Shields start the final two games of this frigid homestand, on Tuesday and Wednesday. The specter of opening up 0-6 at Sox Park looms menacingly.