CHICAGO (AP) — The Tampa Bay Rays continued their struggles on the road Friday night.
The Rays built an early lead before letting it slip away in a 5-4 loss to the Chicago White Sox. The Rays are 2-9 away from Tropicana Field, the worst road record in the American League and just ahead of Cincinnati (1-7) in the majors.
Leadoff hitter Matt Joyce, who entered the game hitting .185, was 2-for-5 with a home run and two RBIs. But breaking out of his slump was not at the top of his list.
“The bigger issue is that we have to figure out how to win on the road,” Joyce said. “For us, that’s more at the forefront of our minds.”
Joyce added “It’s frustrating for everyone.”
The road woes are out of character for Tampa Bay. Since the start of 2010, the Rays have the third best road record in the majors, only behind the Phillies and Yankees.
“We need to keep going. We won’t quit,” Rays catcher Jose Molina said. “We’re going to give everything we have until we win some more games on the road.”
They’ll have plenty of chances to turn things around, with eight more games left on the current road trip.
Things looked promising early with the lead against White Sox ace Jake Peavy.
“I felt pretty good about it,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said. “We were playing well.”
Peavy (3-1) gave up home runs to Matt Joyce and Evan Longoria and fell behind 3-0 in the fourth, but the White Sox overpowered Rays starter Roberto Hernandez (1-4) for their first three-game winning streak of the season.
Peavy allowed three runs and six hits, with seven strikeouts, in 6 2-3 innings.
Hector Gimenez, Tyler Greene and Conor Gillaspie all homered for the White Sox.
Trailing 3-1 in the fifth, the White Sox hit two home runs to take a 4-3 lead.
Gimenez, catching for the first time since leaving Monday’s game after getting hit on the lower left leg with a pitch, hit his first career homer to cut the Rays lead to 3-2. Greene’s two-run home run, his first of the season, gave Chicago a 4-3 lead.
Gillaspie’s solo home run in the sixth then gave the White Sox a 5-3 advantage and their second straight game scoring at least five runs.
That’s huge. We were kind of down there early,” Greene said. “We were able to battle and slowly, slowly inching back and we were able to take a lead there and just hold onto it.”
Hernandez gave up all five runs and eight hits while striking out five in six innings. He had given up two home runs in 24 2-3 innings this season.
Before Friday he had never given up three home runs in an outing.
“I tried to keep the ball down to get a ground ball but today I couldn’t get the ground ball,” Hernandez said.
Tampa Bay had runners on first and second in the eighth but Sean Rodriguez popped to third to end the threat.
Working for the third straight day, Addison Reed pitched the ninth for his eighth save in eight chances but allowed Joyce’s RBI single before striking out Ben Zobrist with runners on first and second to end the game.
“It’s never easy,” Peavy said. “That’s the White Sox way.”
Trailing 3-0 in the fourth, Adam Dunn singled to right to drive in Alex Rios. Dunn, who entered the game with only eight hits, including four home runs, was 2 for 4 with a double. Friday is Dunn’s first game with more than one hit since April 3, the White Sox’s second of the season.
Tampa Bay took a 1-0 lead when Joyce homered in the third, hooking a 2-2 Peavy pitch inside the right-field foul pole. Friday was Joyce’s third career start at leadoff, and he’s homered in all three.
Longoria doubled Tampa Bay’s lead in the fourth when he took a 1-2 pitch to right for his sixth home run of the season. Kelly Johnson then singled in James Loney for a 3-0 Rays lead.
The RBI gave Longoria 468 with the Rays, tying him with Carlos Pena for second in team history behind Carl Crawford (592).
NOTES: INF Jeff Keppinger was out of the lineup Friday with a lower back issue and is listed as day-to-day. In his last two games Keppinger is 3 for 9. Dewayne Wise was a late scratch with a stiff neck and is day-to-day. … Tampa Bay shortstop Yunel Escobar didn’t play Friday night and missed his second straight game with a tight right hamstring. … Saturday’s pitching matchup is the Rays’ Matt Moore (4-0, 1.04) vs. the White Sox’s Gavin Floyd (0-3, 4.98). … Rays outfielder Luke Scott was removed from a game at a rehab assignment at Single-A Port Charlotte after getting hit in the right elbow with a pitch. Scott is on the disabled list with a right calf strain.