‘We’re just getting bit’: Chicago White Sox back to 20 games under .500 with loss to Tampa Bay Rays

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The Chicago White Sox needed length from starter Michael Soroka.

A night after command issues led to an early exit for Mike Clevinger, it looked like Soroka was headed toward a similar fate.

But the right-hander found a way to fight through five innings in a 5-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays in front of 10,872 on Tuesday at Tropicana Field.

Soroka allowed four runs (three earned) on three hits with four strikeouts and four walks. He threw a season-high 102 pitches, 59 for strikes.

“Fairly similar to what it’s been through this year,” Soroka said. “It’s time to put one together for a whole outing. I feel like every time I come out, it’s, ‘There’s some good, there’s some bad, I got bit.’ Which was tonight.

“I got bit in the long counts. Long-count walks, long-count the only hard contact that they had. They saw a lot of pitches. I’ve got to do a better job of filling it up early and making them put it in play or putting them away.”

No at-bat summed up the night better than a third-inning battle with Randy Arozarena.

The Sox trailed 2-0 when Soroka faced Arozarena with one out and one on. He got Arozarena to swing and miss on a fastball and slider to quickly jump ahead in the count 0-2.

Soroka threw a slider in the dirt for ball one. He followed with two fastballs, which Arozarena fouled off. Soroka threw another slider in the dirt on the fifth pitch for a ball. Arozarena fouled off another fastball and took a high fastball to run the count full.

The ninth pitch was a slider over the plate. Arozarena jumped all over it for a two-run homer to left.

“I felt like I made a lot of good pitches,” Soroka said. “Credit to him for fighting a lot of them off.

“It comes down to executing. If I throw a good one, it’s probably at best a weakly hit baseball. I threw a bad one and he made me pay.”

Soroka rebounded to retire eight of the final nine hitters he faced, which was a positive for the Sox after Clevinger exited following two-plus innings in Monday’s 8-2 loss to the Rays.

“I’m glad I got the chance to go back out there for two more and put those two together,” Soroka said. “Take those and move those into the next outing and forget the rest.”

The Sox had a big scoring opportunity in the fifth.

They entered the inning with just one hit — a single in the second by Bryan Ramos.

With two outs in the fifth, Paul DeJong singled to left. Korey Lee followed with another single. And when shortstop José Caballero couldn’t handle Nicky Lopez’s grounder for an error, the Sox had the bases loaded with Gavin Sheets up as the tying run.

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Sheets got ahead in the count 3-0. He got the green light and hit a sinker off the end of his bat to right field, where Josh Lowe made a catch to end the threat.

Sox manager Pedro Grifol credited Rays starter Zach Eflin for executing the right pitch at the right time.

“He ran a two-seamer right on the corner, it was a perfect pitch and he hit it off the end of the bat,” Grifol said. “Sheets has been clutch for us all year long, he was going to be really aggressive there and see if we can hit a ball in the gap or seats. He made a good pitch on a 3-0 count. He made the perfect pitch.”

Eflin allowed one run, a home run to DeJong, on six hits with three strikeouts and no walks in seven innings.

The Sox went 0-for-4 with runners in scoring position and left eight on base while falling to 8-28 — their worst 36-game start in franchise history. For the second time this year, they are a season-high 20 games under .500.

“It’s not too much different than what I’ve been telling you guys the whole year about me — there’s a lot of good, there’s some bad and we’re just getting bit,” Soroka said. “We’re putting together better at-bats of late, we’re putting together better innings. It’s just a matter of keep going.”