Snell stymies Sox, Rays return to .500 with W

Snell stymies Sox, Rays return to .500 with W

CHICAGO -- Blake Snell continued his run of consistency, working at least six innings in his fifth straight start, as the Rays claimed a 3-1 victory over the White Sox Friday night at Guaranteed Rate Field. The victory pushed the Rays back to .500 at 68-68 and marked the fourth straight loss for the White Sox.

Tampa Bay, which matched its 2016 win total with the victory, moved within three games of the Twins for the second American League Wild Card spot with Minnesota's loss on Friday night.

Snell yielded one unearned run over 6 2/3 innings, allowing six hits, walking one and striking out one. He was helped by three double plays, all going from shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria to second baseman Brad Miller to first baseman Logan Morrison.

"[There are] still things I need to freshen up, clean up," Snell said. "But yeah, I feel confident in what I'm doing right now and just trying to continue that. I've been getting in a rhythm with [catcher] Wilson [Ramos] so well, and it's just working really well right now."

"He induced quite a few double plays against us," White Sox manager Rick Renteria said. "We had a couple of chances. I thought all in all, we grinded out as best as we could today."

Renteria on the 3-1 loss to Rays

Morrison supplied all the offense the Rays needed in the first inning, connecting for a two-out, two-run homer on a hanging changeup from White Sox starter Reynaldo Lopez. Morrison's 34th home run on the season also gave him a homer in four of the last five games and five homers in total during that time. He added a run-scoring single in the third.

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Morrison's two-run homer

Lopez made his third start for the White Sox, his first since Aug. 17 when he was sidelined by a back strain. The right-hander struck out seven and induced seven swings and misses on both his fastball and changeup. He walked one and gave up three runs on five hits in six innings.

"I felt good today," Lopez said through interpreter Billy Russo. "I did what I usually do and I did it since the beginning and I think I had a good game. I felt very good."

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Lopez strikes out seven

The Rays improved to 4-1 in Snell's last five starts after starting the season 4-10 in the southpaw's first 14 outings. In 12 of those first 14 starts, Snell pitched fewer than six innings.

"He was able to limit damage," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "All those little things are signs of a lot of good things. I don't know if Blake was doing that two months ago, three months ago."

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Hechavarria's got the hop: The White Sox got some traffic against Snell while trailing 3-1 in the fifth, putting a pair on after Evan Longoria's error and a Yolmer Sanchez single. White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson, who doubled in his previous at-bat, laced a low liner 102.6 mph, per Statcast™, which seemed destined to bring home a run. Hechavarria moved to his left at shortstop, snared the tough short hop and flipped it to Miller to start an inning-ending double play.

"The sharp one-hopper, he makes everything look easy," Cash said. "Those are not easy plays. He's just so agile, puts his body and his hands in such good position to be able to not only catch it, but be in a good spot to get a good feed to Brad."

"It's not easy," Hechavarria said. "Everyone tells me that, but nothing is easy. It's everything. Quick hands, quick feet."

Hechavarria, Miller turn two

Shortstop on Shortstop Crime: Hechavarria started another inning-ending double-play in the sixth, but his next highlight came with Anderson at the plate in the seventh. With the bases loaded and two outs in a two-run game and Steve Cishek on the mound, Anderson lined one up the middle -- with an exit velocity of 91.7 mph and hit probability of 83 percent according to Statcast™ -- that Hechavarria was able to snag to end the inning.

"You kind of understand what kind of game we're playing," Anderson said. "Same if you hit a ball hard and get out, sometime you hit something off the end of the bat and get on. You just stay learning, and I accept it. It is what it is."

Cishek escapes jam in 7th

QUOTABLE
"If that ball gets through, one or two steps left, two steps right, it's a different ballgame." -- Renteria, on Anderson's inning-ending lineout with the bases loaded in the seventh

EARLY EXIT FOR LEURY
Leury Garcia left in the fifth inning due to a right hand contusion and is listed as day to day. Renteria said Garcia re-aggravated the injury while taking swings during batting practice. The ensuing changes led to Omar Narvaez taking over at first base, marking Narvaez's first career appearance at first.

WHAT'S NEXT
Road team: Chris Archer will take the bump for the 7:10 p.m. ET start against the White Sox on Saturday, as he looks to continue a roll of seven quality starts in nine appearances since the All-Star break. He allowed two runs in seven innings in a loss to Chicago on June 6.

White Sox: Carlos Rodon is scheduled to make his 12th start of the season since returning from the disabled list on 6/28, with first pitch set for 6:10 p.m. CT. Rodon allowed five runs over five innings while striking out four in his last start against the Tigers, but he still has a 3.07 ERA over his last six starts.

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Scott Merkin has covered the White Sox for MLB.com since 2003. Read his blog, Merk's Works, follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin, on Facebook and listen to his podcast.

Fabian Ardaya is a reporter for MLB.com based in Chicago who covered the Rays on Friday.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.