Rays-White Sox Preview
The visiting Rays look to extend their season-high winning streak to nine games when they continue their four-game set with the reeling White Sox on Friday night.
Evan Longoria hit a tiebreaking home run in the ninth and three relievers held Chicago to two hits over 2 2-3 scoreless innings in Tampa Bay's 3-2 win Thursday. After losing seven of eight, the Rays (86-70) have won eight in a row to move within two games of Oakland for the AL's final wild-card spot.
"The belief has never gone away. We've felt like we had a good chance to be a playoff team from the beginning of the year,'' Longoria said. "The pressure is not on us playing from behind. It's not ours to lose, it's ours to win. We're behind, but we're close enough.''
While Tampa Bay is in the midst of its longest winning stretch since a 12-game run June 9-22, 2004, Chicago (82-74) has dropped three in a row and eight of nine to fall two games behind first-place Detroit in the Central.
"There ain't nobody to blame," said Jake Peavy, who allowed two runs in 7 1-3 innings Thursday. "I think everybody in here will take accountability for the way we've played.''
Batting .128 with runners in scoring position over the last 11 games, the White Sox have averaged 2.4 runs in their last nine.
"It hasn't worked for a little while," manager Robin Ventura said. "It's frustrating. It has to change. You just keep going."
Kevin Youkilis had three of Chicago's eight hits Thursday. The third baseman is batting .375 (9 for 24) in his last six games and is the only White Sox player to have faced Tampa Bay starter Jeremy Hellickson (9-10, 3.20).
Youkilis is 4 for 13 with a homer versus Hellickson, who is 2-3 in his last eight starts but has a 2.36 ERA during that stretch. The right-hander gave up five hits and struck out six in 5 2-3 innings of a 3-0 win over Toronto on Sunday.
Chicago counters with Gavin Floyd (10-11, 4.56), who is 4-1 with a 2.57 ERA versus Tampa Bay since he allowed four runs in three innings of a 6-2 home loss to the Rays in Game 4 of the 2008 AL division series.
The right-hander struck out eight over six innings but yielded all four of his runs in the sixth in Sunday's 4-1 loss in Anaheim.
Each of Longoria's two hits in 11 at-bats versus Floyd has left the park. The third baseman is 11 for 30 (.367) with two home runs and six RBIs during the Rays' winning streak.
It's uncertain if Tampa Bay catcher Jose Molina will return Friday after he missed a second straight game Thursday with a right quad strain. Molina is 9 for 17 with two homers and seven RBIs in his last six games.