The Chicago White Sox and Tampa Bay Rays are pretty much polar opposites offensively right now. So when the two teams square off at U.S. Cellular Field, the Rays will be faced with a tough task of getting their first win.
James Shields takes the mound opposite White Sox starter John Danks hoping to help visiting Tampa Bay to its first victory as the teams continue their four-game series Friday night.
The Rays (0-6), who finished third in the majors with 802 runs scored last season, fell 5-1 to Chicago on Thursday and have totaled just eight during their season-opening six-game slide.
“It’s absurd to think you can go into some slumps and not hit the ball like this,” said manager Joe Maddon, whose team was held to one run for the fifth time. “One run all the time is just hard to cope with. There’s not a whole lot we can do to be creative.”
Losing three-time All-Star third baseman Evan Longoria to the disabled list on Saturday with a muscle strain certainly hasn’t helped the Rays, who are batting .145.
“Of course, we never expected to start this way. We’ve had success and we anticipate success this season,” Maddon said. “What happens in the beginning of the year is more magnified than if it occurs in the middle when you’ve built up a little cache of wins.”
In contrast, the White Sox (4-2) lead the AL with 45 runs scored and are hitting .320 after collecting 12 hits Thursday.
“Right now we’re hitting in the clutch and that’s very important,” said manager Ozzie Guillen. “We’re mixing in one run here and there. …I think every day it’s not the same guy every time. Different guys are doing the damage.”
Juan Pierre improved his average to .357 with three hits, Alex Rios had two doubles and two RBIs and Paul Konerko had at least one RBI for the sixth straight game.
Carlos Quentin entered Thursday batting .500 over a five-game hitting streak but went 0 for 2.
Quentin is 3 for 17 lifetime against Shields (0-1, 2.45 ERA), who allowed four hits and two runs and struck out seven over 7 1-3 innings of Saturday’s 3-1 loss to Baltimore.
“Sometimes you can look good and you don’t come out with the win,” said Shields, who is 2-2 with a 5.05 ERA in seven starts against the White Sox.
The right-hander, though, has enjoyed some success of late at U.S. Cellular Field, where he has gone 1-0 with a 2.63 ERA in his last two starts.
Danks (0-1, 3.00), too, suffered the loss in his season debut despite allowing six hits and two runs and recording eight strikeouts in six innings of Sunday’s 7-1 defeat at Cleveland.
Danks had compiled a 2.35 ERA en route to winning five of six starts against the Rays before surrendering eight hits and a career worst-tying eight runs in four innings of an 8-5 loss May 29.
Rays outfielder B.J. Upton went 2 for 4 on Thursday and has recorded a hit in all six games. Upton, though, is 2 for 14 with six strikeouts lifetime against Danks.
Johnny Damon, Ben Zobrist and Dan Johnson, who hit 2-3-4 in Tampa Bay’s lineup Thursday, have combined for just one hit in 16 at-bats versus the left-hander.
Manny Ramirez, who spent part of last season with Chicago, missed Thursday’s game because of a family matter, but is expected to be available for this one. Ramirez is 1 for 17 in 2011.
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