The American League East-leading Rays squared off against the Central-leading White Sox. Unfortunately for the home team, the novelty of the clash did not translate into a win as the Rays dropped a 5-1 decision in front of a crowd of 12,636.
"I didn't look at [the game] any differently than any other game," White Sox starter John Danks said. "But deep down you know that they are winning the tough East and we've got a tough Central. ... This team doesn't lose much here at home and if we come in here and hopefully sweep this series, we'd be sitting pretty going into June."
The Rays fell to 32-22, taking only their 10th home loss of the season against 21 wins, and just their third home loss in their past 20 games. Despite the loss, the Rays remain alone in first place in the East.
Edwin Jackson started for the Rays and pitched well enough to keep the team in the game had the Rays managed any semblance of offense, a problem symptomatic of the Rays' bats anytime Danks takes the mound at Tropicana Field.
On April 20, the crafty White Sox left-hander posted seven scoreless innings to claim his second win of the season in a 6-0 win over the Rays at Tropicana Field. Thursday night Danks allowed just one run in six innings, which proved to be enough to earn his fourth win of the season and move to 3-0 in three career starts at The Trop.
"He just knows how to pitch," Evan Longoria said. "He throws a little cutter in that's tough on righties and uses that changeup down and away. He does a good job mixing his pitches up. It makes it tough on both righties and lefties."
Danks did not dominate the Rays as he had in his previous outing when he allowed just three hits, but he was effective when he had to be Thursday night. Particularly in the third when the Rays had a chance to run him right out of the air conditioning.
Willy Aybar, who was activated from the disabled list prior to the game, doubled in his first at-bat to lead off the third. One out later, Akinori Iwamura added a single before Carl Crawford singled to drive home Aybar and cut the White Sox lead to 2-1. B.J. Upton then drew a walk to load the bases for cleanup hitter Carlos Pena, and it appeared the Rays were in business.
Instead, Danks elevated his game.
First, he struck out Pena swinging. Longoria then hit into a fielder's choice. Rally over.
"We had opportunities to get the game where we wanted to," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "Danks has pitched well against us both times we've faced him. ... He's an aggressive sort. He's got a good amount of confidence, too."
Jackson (3-4) pitched in and out of trouble throughout his six-inning stint that saw him surrender four runs on 10 hits. Of the White Sox hits, Joe Crede's home run to left field leading off the sixth seemed to hurt the worst. The White Sox clung to a 2-1 lead at that point, and Jackson had the White Sox third baseman down 0-2 in the count. But Crede connected, and when the ball landed in the left-field stands, 391 feet away from home plate, the White Sox had a 3-1 lead and Jackson looked finished.
"Just bad execution," Jackson said of the pitch. "An 0-2 count, got too much of the plate and he hit a mistake."
The Rays will play the Sox 10 times this season and are down 3-1 in the season series, scoring a total of eight runs in the four games. Still, the Rays are a different franchise than the one White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen played for in 2000.
"I feel proud of them," Guillen said. "I was here when the stuff here was not working. Nobody ever knew we were here. I feel proud of the manager and the people who work for the Rays right now. They are doing a tremendous job and have unbelievable talent. This town will be fun for baseball for the next 10 years."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.