ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — Jeremy Hellickson and the Tampa Bay offense had another productive night.
Hellickson won his fourth consecutive start, Jose Molina had a two-run homer during a five-run second inning, and the Rays beat the Chicago White Sox 8-3 on Friday night.
“I felt the same when things were going bad,” Hellickson said. “It’s just a matter of keeping the ball down, getting ahead and making a big pitch when I need to.”
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Hellickson (8-3) gave up one run, six hits and struck out nine in seven innings, helping the Rays win for the sixth time in seven games.
“That’s pretty good stuff right there,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said of Hellickson.
Hellickson was coming off a strong June when he went 5-1.
Molina hit his two-run drive and the following batter, Kelly Johnson, connected for a solo shot three pitches later off Dylan Axelrod (3-5) to start the second-inning surge that saw the Rays go up 5-0.
Later in the inning, Evan Longoria had an RBI single before Wil Myers ended Axelrod’s night with a run-scoring double.
“As a team we’re doing a really good job of getting better at-bats and that’s huge to make sure that the team keeps hitting the way we’re doing right now,” Molina said.
It was Molina’s second homer this season and first since April 18. Tampa Bay has scored 36 runs over the past five games.
Axelrod, who has given up 10 homers in 22 1-3 innings over his past five starts, allowed five runs and nine hits in 1 2-3 innings.
“They just jumped on Ax,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “Everything was elevated, it seemed like. When he’s good, he’s got people swinging and missing and balls kind of falling in the dirt. Everything just seemed to be up today.”
The 1 2-3 innings was Axelrod’s shortest career start.
“I threw some balls up and they’re hot right now, so I’ll just try to turn the page and think about my net start,” Axelrod said.
Myers’ sacrifice fly and a run-scoring single by Luke Scott made it 7-0 in the fourth.
Josh Phegley got his first major league hit, an RBI single in the fifth for the White Sox, who have lost seven of nine. Phegley, who started at catcher, and center fielder Blake Tekotte, recalled from Triple-A Charlotte before the game, were both in the starting lineup.
Gordon Beckham had an RBI single and Phegley added a sacrifice fly in the ninth.
Longoria started at third base for the first time since leaving a game on June 28 after irritating plantar fasciitis in his right foot. He returned Tuesday for the first of three consecutive days as the designated hitter.
“He was fine,” Maddon said. “Not hurting at all.”
Tampa Bay’s James Loney singled in the first to extend his hitting streak to a career-best 16 games. He drove in a run by drawing a bases-loaded walk in the fifth.
Axelrod reached for Desmond Jennings’ low first-inning liner, which knocked his glove to the ground. The pitcher picked up the ball and threw out the speedy Rays’ leadoff man at first.
NOTES: White Sox RHP Jake Peavy, on the DL since June 6 due to a broken rib, threw off a bullpen mound. “Hopefully in the next week or so he’ll be able to get a side (session) and be ready to go,” Ventura said. Peavy will likely go out on a rehab assignment before rejoining the team. … Rays RHP Alex Cobb had a bullpen session for the first time since being hit in the right ear by a line drive on June 15. There is no timetable for his return. … The White Sox designated C Hector Gimenez for assignment. … SS Alexi Ramirez, who played every inning for the White Sox this season entering the game, was one of several Chicago players pulled after the top of the seventh.