Rays falter late, drop finale to Sox
Late-game troubles cause Tampa Bay to fall short of sweep
CHICAGO -- Alexei Ramirez's RBI single in the bottom of the 10th drove in the winning run in a 6-5 White Sox win on Sunday, preventing the Rays from completing a three-game weekend sweep in front of a crowd of 38,562 at U.S. Cellular Field.
In defeat, the Rays fell to 79-50 on the season and saw their lead in the American League East reduced to 4 1/2 games as the second-place Red Sox defeated the Blue Jays, 6-5.
The Rays' undoing began when A.J. Pierzynski singled off Jason Hammel to lead off the 10th. When Carlos Quentin flied out to center fielder B.J. Upton, Pierznynski alertly tagged and advanced to second.
"Long fly ball and I got turned around," Upton said. "Obviously, there was a chance he might tag. I just didn't get my feet under me to get the ball in.
"... The fly ball started out toward left-center and started to come back, that's why I got turned around. I couldn't get my feet set under me to make a strong throw."
Jermaine Dye then grounded to Jason Bartlett at shortstop and Pierzynski got caught in a rundown. But obstruction was called on Rays third baseman Willy Aybar and Pierzynski was allowed to go to third base. After Jim Thome was intentionally walked, Ramirez singled to drive in the winning run.
The game got off to an unusual start when the Rays took a 3-0 lead all on unearned runs.
In the first inning, Carlos Pena reached base on a two-out error by White Sox first baseman Nick Swisher and Rocco Baldelli followed by hitting Chicago starter Mark Buehrle's first pitch into the left-field stands for a 2-0 Rays lead.
Buehrle then struck out Bartlett for what would have been the third out of the second inning, only Pierzynski's passed ball allowed Bartlett to reach first and Ben Zobrist to move to third base. Akinori Iwamura then singled home Zobrist for a 3-0 Rays lead.
Rays starter Andy Sonnanstine surrendered two-run homers to Quentin and Thome in the fourth when the Sox claimed a 4-3 lead.
"Just a little bit of lack of focus and not executing the pitch completely in the fourth," Sonnanstine said. "I threw a slider to Quentin, a pitch he could handle a little down and out of the zone. I tip my cap to him on that one. Thome, that was just kind of a pitch that ran into his bat -- a changeup. Other than that inning, I felt real good today."
Aybar's grounder to shortstop -- that Orlando Cabrera booted -- scored Pena from third in the sixth inning to tie the game at 4. Pena's RBI double with two out in the seventh gave the Rays a 5-4 lead that they took into the ninth.
Ken Griffey Jr. doubled off Dan Wheeler with one out in the ninth and one out later pinch-hitter Paul Konerko singled to left field. Zobrist fielded the ball cleanly and made a quick throw home, but catcher Shawn Riggans dropped the throw, which allowed pinch-runner Brian Anderson to score the tying run.
"I just dropped it, that's all that happened. All you guys saw it -- same thing I saw," Riggans said. "A perfect throw and the ball came out of my mitt -- one-hop throw, a perfect throw."
Riggans said the way Sunday's game ended made it harder to take.
"Any time you've got a game in front of you and the game should be over, and then you lose -- however it just happened -- of course it's tough," Riggans said. "We played [hard], battled the whole series. It would have been nice to come away with a sweep, but it didn't happen."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.