Another late rally, another dramatic win for the Tampa Bay Rays, and when it was over, Jason Bartlett let out a big sigh of relief.
“It’s stressful, man,” he said.
It’s a little easier when they have an ending like Tuesday night.
Carlos Pena‘s sacrifice fly off Bobby Jenks capped a two-run ninth, and the Rays beat the Chicago White Sox 3-2.
Late rallies are becoming the norm for the Rays, who swept Kansas City with three come-from-behind wins before falling short in Monday’s 4-3 loss to Chicago. They loaded the bases in the ninth inning of that game but did not score against Jenks.
This time, trailing 2-1, they came through.
They had the bases loaded with no outs against Jenks (2-3) when Pat Burrell walked to force in Bartlett with the tying run. Pena drove in Evan Longoria with a sacrifice fly to right, making it 3-2 and sending the Rays to their fourth win in five games.
J.P. Howell allowed a leadoff single to A.J. Pierzynski in the bottom half, but he struck out Carlos Quentin and Jayson Nix before retiring Gordon Beckham on a comebacker for his 10th save in 15 chances.
The late rally made a winner of Jeff Niemann (9-4) and spoiled an outstanding start by Chicago’s Clayton Richard, who allowed four hits over a career-high eight innings.
Niemann, coming off a seven-hit shutout of Oakland, scattered eight hits over eight innings, striking out seven without walking a batter. He got out of a bases-loaded jam in the seventh, striking out Scott Podsednik and Alexei Ramirez, but was looking like a tough-luck loser until the Rays got to Jenks.
“For me right there, that was the game,” Niemann said. “I had to keep them right there at that point.”
In a similar spot, Jenks couldn’t get the job done. He declined to speak to reporters afterward, instead telling a team spokesman, “I’m going through a rough patch. I’ll figure it out.”
Bartlett, who struck out to end Monday’s game, led off the ninth with a single and Jenks simply unraveled from there, blowing his third save in 25 opportunities. He hit Longoria and Ben Zobrist singled to load the bases before Burrell walked to tie it.
Burrell was doubled off first on Pena’s sacrifice fly. Pinch-hitter Carl Crawford walked before Gabe Gross grounded out to end the inning.
Until that rally, the White Sox appeared to be on their way to their 14th win in 20 games. They scored two in the fifth to take a 2-1 lead on an RBI double by Beckham – one of his three hits – and grounder by Podsednik, and that looked like it might be enough.
Richard delivered his best outing after going 1-2 with a 10.80 ERA in his previous five starts and putting his spot in the rotation – if not on the roster – in jeopardy.
“It’s just common sense,” Richard said. “At this level, when you struggle for so long, things have to get better. I realized that I would have a better outing. It’s just unfortunate it didn’t come out on our side.”
With John Danks missing Wednesday’s start because of a blister on his left index finger, the White Sox said they will purchase Carlos Torres’ contract from Triple-A Charlotte and have him start. To make room for Torres, they optioned Aaron Poreda to the minor league club.
So Richard appears safe for now. A longer layoff because of the All-Star break seemed to help.
“I got a few more bullpen sessions, which was really nice,” Richard said. “I got to address some of the issues that I had, and iron them out for the most part.”
Rays manager Joe Maddon said LHP Scott Kazmir‘s throwing session on Tuesday went well, and he is expected to start Thursday. Kazmir left Saturday’s game against Kansas City with a cramp in his left forearm. … Maddon said he was planning to go with lefties against Danks, so his lineup won’t change because of the White Sox‘s switch.