Rays-White Sox Preview
The Tampa Bay Rays are finding it hard to string together a few victories with a starting rotation hampered by several injuries.
One of the Rays' few healthy arms will take the hill Friday night to open a weekend road series against the Chicago White Sox.
Tampa Bay (10-12) has dropped three of four thanks in large part to the struggles of its starting staff. In those losses, Cesar Ramos, Jake Odorizzi and Eric Bedard - who are filling in for Matt Moore, Alex Cobb and Jeremy Hellickson - tossed a combined 12 1-3 innings with none of them lasting more than five.
Bedard struggled to get through four innings of Thursday's 9-7 loss to the Minnesota Twins, giving up four runs, five hits and five walks. It was the eighth time in the last 10 games that Tampa Bay's starter went five frames or fewer.
The short outings have worn out the bullpen, which has thrown 70 2-3 innings this season, among the most in the American League.
"Of course we're missing some really good guys but you can't worry about that. We can't cry about that," manager Joe Maddon said. "You've got to get the best out of the people that you have."
Tampa Bay's pitching needs to come around since the Chicago series opens a 10-game trip that also goes through Boston before closing with three at Yankee Stadium.
Chris Archer (2-1, 3.65 ERA) will look to end the woes Friday in the opener of this four-game series. The right-hander has thrown six or more innings in three of his four starts, including a win over the New York Yankees on Saturday when he allowed three hits and one earned run in 6 2-3 innings.
Archer tossed two innings of relief against the White Sox in 2012, giving up four earned runs, but he has never started versus Chicago.
The White Sox (11-12) are also dealing with pitching injuries and will counter with right-hander Erik Johnson, who has improved every time he's taken the mound this year.
Johnson (1-1, 5.32 ERA), who has never faced the Rays, was effective in his last start despite five walks, allowing only one hit to earn the victory Sunday against Texas.
"Five walks is a lot. I gave them way too much for what they got and I'm just lucky we could turn a few double plays," Johnson said afterward. "It's not the day I wanted, but I'll take it. I did make some big pitches when I needed them."
The White Sox return to U.S. Cellular Field after a 3-4 road trip through Texas and Detroit. Chicago had a chance to secure a winning trip Thursday against the Tigers, but the Sox couldn't do much even with 11 hits. They left eight men on base in a 7-4 loss.
"Obviously your goal is to win every series, and we didn't do that," said designated hitter Adam Dunn, who hit his 445th career homer in the loss. "So any time you come home with a losing record, I don't think that's what your goal is."
Dunn has struggled in his career against the Rays with a .152 batting average that is tied for his lowest against any team for which he hasn't played. The slugger has just four home runs against Tampa Bay pitching in 92 career at-bats.