Rays get to Sale early, remain three games back

Rays get to Sale early, remain three games back

Rays get to Sale early, remain three games back
CHICAGO -- A battle between two young left-handers failed to live up to the hype, which proved to be a good thing for the Rays on Saturday afternoon when they took a 10-4 win over the White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field.

By winning, the Rays started a new win streak, which they will have to ride through the end of the season if they want to have any kind of chance of earning a spot in the playoffs, particularly since the Athletics came from behind to beat the Mariners, 7-4, and the Orioles defeated the Red Sox, 4-3, to remain three games ahead of the Rays for the American League's Wild Card spots.

"That's unfortunate, but we just have to win our game and I was really pleased with the way we played," Rays manager Joe Maddon said.

Matt Moore and Chris Sale butted heads at Tropicana Field on May 28, when Sale earned the victory in a 2-1 White Sox win over the Rays.

During that game, Moore and Sale left hitters from both teams smarting, combining for 25 strikeouts. Given the way the shadows edged over the stands, splitting the field between sunshine and shade, the forecast for more strikeouts seemed reasonable Saturday afternoon.

Early in the game, the Rays felt a familiar vibe after stranding four and striking out five times in the first two innings. But rather than reflecting on the past, and how Sale had struck out 15 the last time they saw him, the Rays put their foot on the accelerator.

B.J. Upton drew a walk to open the third and scored on Ben Zobrist's double, giving Zobrist 20 RBIs in September. One out later, Jeff Keppinger homered to left, giving him nine home runs for the season and adding to his career high, while putting the Rays up, 3-0.

Keppinger said seeing the ball was his main objective in that at-bat.

"It was really tough to see the ball today, all day," Keppinger said. "You couldn't pick up any spin. You see that the ball is coming, but you don't know what it's doing."

Without being able to identify the spin, he fished for an inside fastball. And at 3-2, Sale delivered the pitch Keppinger hoped to receive.

"I didn't miss it," Keppinger said.

Upton's one-out single in the fourth drove home another run and chased Sale, who came eight strikeouts shy of his last performance against Tampa Bay.

"We lost the game 10-4," Sale said. "I got knocked out after 3 1/3 innings. That was terrible. That was a disgrace. For [White Sox manager Robin Ventura] to say that was terrible was probably putting that lightly. I did nothing to help the team win, put guys in positions that they shouldn't have been in."

Tampa Bay continued to hit after Sale was gone.

Evan Longoria added an RBI single in the fourth off Brian Omogrosso to push the lead to 5-0, and it would have been 6-0, but Upton got thrown out by a whisker at home while trying to score on the play.

Meanwhile, Moore had a perfect game through 4 1/3 innings before Alex Rios finally broke his spell with a single to right.

Moore allowed just one hit and two walks while striking out four in 5 1/3 scoreless innings en route to his first win since Aug. 19, breaking a streak of four consecutive defeats.

"[Moore] was locating," Rios said. "He has a good fastball. He's slider was pretty good. He got it all going on for him today."

Maddon finally elected to take Moore out of the game when he noticed a "dramatic" loss in the velocity of his pitches. Overall, Maddon was pleased with the way Moore pitched.

"I just think he attacked better, attacked the strike zone better," Maddon said. "He had a couple of moments that got away from him, but for the most part, attacked the strike zone better. Pitched with his fastball mostly from what I could tell. Was pretty efficient too, got relatively effient outs."

Despite his recent struggles -- Moore didn't make it past the fourth inning in his previous three starts -- the pitcher has never seemed worried about his abilities or the results.

"I never felt like there was anything wrong, especially physically," Moore said. "I think that's where a little bit of the question comes in, especially late in the season. ... I think that's a natural question to bring up, especially with my velocity being down a little bit. But I felt like I went out there and competed with what I had."

Chris Gimenez added his first home run of the season in the sixth. Matt Joyce added his 16th home run in the seventh to push the lead to 7-0, and he went deep again in the eighth to put Tampa Bay up 10-0.

Orlando Hudson hit a pinch-hit grand slam in the eighth inning for Chicago's lone runs.

Maddon expressed how pleased he was with his team for overcoming a tough loss to the White Sox on Friday night.

"Tough loss last night and you read all the epitaphs or whatever and the guys came out today and played the kind of game we were playing a couple of days ago at home when we put all the runs on the board," Maddon said. "That's what we're capable of."

But is it too much too late? The answer to that question will come at some point during the final four games of the season.

Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.