The Chicago White Sox improved to 20-22 against teams within five games of a playoff spot with Friday’s 7-5 road win over the Tampa Bay Rays.
American League Central-leading Chicago will look to make it two victories in a row against the club with the best record in the AL as the teams meet Saturday afternoon on the heels of an 11-inning thriller.
Having dealt for much of the season with the narrative that they merely fatten up against struggling competition, the White Sox are eager to prove any doubters wrong as they continue a road trip that also features a visit to AL contender Toronto.
“I think it’s a good test for us to see where we’re at against those teams,” White Sox third baseman Yoan Moncada said through a translator. “Also, it’s a good challenge for us to prepare for the postseason because we know we’re going to facing those teams in the postseason.”
Chicago leads its division by 11 1/2 games, the largest cushion in baseball, thanks in part to a penchant for taking care of teams outside the postseason hunt.
The White Sox are 52-29 against teams that sit more than five games outside a playoff spot. Chicago took two of three while hosting Tampa Bay in mid-June.
After winning the opener of that series, the Rays lost the last two, which ultimately kicked off a seven-game skid. The reigning AL champs since have regrouped, however, winning 32 of their last 49 games entering Saturday.
“I know what the Rays are and I know what they’ve established,” White Sox manager Tony La Russa said. “But we’ve been measuring our club since Opening Day. As long as we play hard, and never give in and never give up — it sounds corny — but we’ll take our shot.”
The White Sox hope to take aim against Rays starter Luis Patino on Saturday.
Patino (2-3, 4.73 ERA), who has not faced Chicago in his career, is coming off Sunday’s sloppy no-decision at Minnesota. Patino allowed two runs and two hits in three innings while walking five and striking out two.
Tampa Bay has won six of nine but was unable to hold on Friday despite taking a 5-4 lead by scoring three runs in the eighth inning. The Rays finished with three errors.
“It was uncharacteristic for just our club in general,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “We had errors. We had plays that should have been called errors. We didn’t do our pitchers many favors today. But we’ll bounce back tomorrow and get back to playing the solid defense and run prevention that we’ve been so good at.”
Chicago left-hander Dallas Keuchel (8-6, 4.48 ERA) gets the call as he aims to build off a June 15 start against the Rays, when he allowed just four hits and a walk while striking out five in seven shutout innings.
Keuchel, who is 2-3 with a 4.46 ERA in his past seven starts, is 2-5 with a 4.18 ERA in nine career starts versus the Rays.
Moncada has a seven-game hitting streak. He delivered his first home run and extra-base hit since Aug. 9 with a two-run blast in the fifth inning Friday.
Rays catcher Mike Zunino saw his nine-game hitting streak and five-game home run streak end.
–Field Level Media