Rays 10, White Sox 2
Rain? Wind? Cold? So what? Shrugging off conditions that used to make them fall apart, the young Tampa Bay Rays used their winningest road trip ever to show how much they have grown.
``We really stayed focused, which translated into a lot of wins,'' Carlos Pena said Thursday night after driving in four runs in a 10-2 victory over the Chicago White Sox that capped a 9-1 trip.
``It's part of our maturity. Regardless of where we are, regardless of the weather, to focus the way we did, having good at-bats, our pitchers grinding it out ... I like what I see.
``In Boston, it was freezing. Here, it was freezing. I looked up on the board a couple of times and saw it was 36 (degrees). And for this team to focus, I'm very impressed.''
One night after a 12-0 victory over Mark Buehrle, who pitched a perfect game against them last July, the Rays routed two-time All-Star Jake Peavy.
Tampa Bay never has finished a season with a winning road record. Things were especially embarrassing in 2006, when the Rays won one road game in July, one in August and one in September. And after reaching the 2008 World Series, they faded last season - mostly because they went 32-49 away from the domed comfort of Tropicana Field.
Now they are 12-4 overall, the best start in their 13-year history.
``To have our concentration not be altered by the surroundings - which has happened in the past - that is one of the most encouraging things,'' manager Joe Maddon said. ``Our group is very hungry. They're not satisfied. We did not like last year. We're very motivated.''
During the trip, the Rays outscored Baltimore, Boston and Chicago by a combined 69-23.
On Thursday, James Shields (2-0) allowed two runs and six hits in seven innings, and Pat Burrell, Reid Brignac and Carl Crawford drove in two runs each.
Peavy (0-1), acquired from San Diego last July 31 in a much-hyped trade, set a career high with seven walks while also giving up seven hits and seven runs in 4 1-3 innings.
In the first year of the $52 million contract extension he signed while with the Padres, Peavy has a 7.66 ERA in four starts. Still, the 2007 NL Cy Young Award winner actually said he was encouraged by some changes he made in his mechanics since his previous start.
``The start wasn't far off from being much (better),'' he said. ``But obviously, walking seven guys is unacceptable.''
While Tampa Bay starters lead the majors with a 2.67 ERA, the rotation that was supposed to be Chicago's strength has a 5.58 ERA.
Manager Ozzie Guillen, who gave the team encouragement after Wednesday's loss, was not so kind after watching the last-place White Sox fall to 5-11.
``I hope (the players) are embarrassed. I am. Our coaching staff is,'' he said. ``If they don't believe they can win, if they don't want to be here ... let me know pretty soon before it's too late. I'm tired of what I see right now. Very, very, very, very tired.''
Leading 2-0 in the third, Peavy loaded the bases by walking Jason Bartlett and Ben Zobrist and giving up Crawford's single. After Pena walked to force in a run, Burrell's two-out, two-run single gave Tampa Bay a 3-2 lead.
Pena singled to open the fifth and went to third on B.J. Upton's double. A walk to Burrell loaded the bases before Brignac's two-run single chased Peavy. Randy Williams got Bartlett to pop out but gave up Crawford's two-run double to make it 7-2.
Pena added a three-run double in the eighth, giving him 18 RBIs.
Zobrist doubled twice, singled, walked and scored twice to snap out of a 3-for-26 slump.
NOTES: The Rays won eight games in 2004 on their previous best trip. ... Rays RHP Matt Garza returned home to be with his wife Thursday for the birth of their son but is expected to make his scheduled start Friday vs. Toronto. At 3-0 with a 0.75 ERA, Garza has been the AL's best pitcher. ... Crawford batted .385 on the trip. ... White Sox 2B Gordon Beckham (2-for-17 slump) and CF Alex Rios (5 for 27 career vs. Shields) weren't in the lineup for the first time this year. ... White Sox RF Carlos Quentin was dropped from third to sixth in the batting order but went 0 for 3 and is hitless in his last 23 at-bats. Asked before the game if he was trying to take pressure off Quentin or gain production for the team, Guillen said: ``Try to give him less pressure. More production, I don't think we're going to get it the way he's swinging.''