Chicago White Sox starter Chris Flexen stings the Tampa Bay Rays again in 4-1 victory to avoid sweep

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Chicago White Sox starter Chris Flexen had his sharpest outing of the season against the Tampa Bay Rays on April 26 at Guaranteed Rate Field, pitching five-plus scoreless innings.

The right-hander saw the Rays again Wednesday at Tropicana Field and had another impressive start. Flexen allowed one run on three hits in six innings, pitching the Sox to a 4-1 victory in front of 12,877.

“I had a little life in the fastball and we were able to utilize that,” Flexen said. “We were trying to avoid a sweep and we got it done.”

Flexen had a season-high eight strikeouts as the Sox (9-28) salvaged the finale of the three-game series. He has a 1.61 ERA in his last five appearances (three starts).

“He was 92-94 (mph), touching 95 maybe, and when his velocity is up like that, he’s tough to hit,” manager Pedro Grifol said.

Flexen is 2-0 with a 0.82 ERA in his two starts against the Rays this season.

“Definitely have to make adjustments, if needed,” Flexen said of seeing the Rays again. “(Catcher Martín Maldonado) did an awesome job of not falling into any patterns. We still utilized the same game plan. I had a different fastball, so we were able to utilize that a little better tonight.”

Flexen averages 91.3 mph on his fastball, according to MLB Statcast. He averaged 93 mph Wednesday.

He retired the first nine batters before Yandy Díaz began the bottom of the fourth with a single. Díaz scored on a double Isaac Paredes. The hit gave the Rays runners on second and third with one out.

The Sox brought the infield in and Amed Rosario smoked a line drive that was caught by shortstop Paul DeJong.

Harold Ramírez, the runner on third, took off for home and was easily doubled up.

“The infield’s in and you’re hoping for weak contact,” Flexen said. “It was barreled and luckily went right at (DeJong) and we doubled them off.”

DeJong also made an impact at the plate, hitting a two-run home run off Rays starter Aaron Civale to give the Sox a 2-1 lead in the fifth. The Sox scored two more runs in the next inning with RBI singles by Bryan Ramos and Tommy Pham, going ahead 4-1.

The Sox still had the three-run lead in the seventh when the Rays made another baserunning blunder. They had runners on first and second with one out and Josh Lowe batting as the tying run.

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The pinch hitter lofted a fly ball to right. Gavin Sheets ran a long way, made a nice catch and then threw to second to double off Paredes, who had raced to third when the ball was still in the air.

“I got a good read on it,” Sheets said. “I was in the right-center gap, could tell (Lowe) got it off the end a little bit and just took off. Luckily it stayed up in the air long enough.

“I saw (Paredes) rounding third. I was a little confused at first, but I threw it to second and got the double play there, which is great.”

The Sox got a conventional double play of the 4-6-3 variety in the ninth to wrap up a six-game trip at 3-3.

Tampa’s playing really well and St. Louis is getting it going as well, they’ve got some great pitching,” Sheets said. “To go 3-3 this series, it’s a step in the right direction.

“It’s not fully where we want to be, but it’s a step in the right direction and that’s what you’ve got to take right now. You’ve got to take positives as we go.”