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News » White Sox-Rays Preview 2008-05-30

White Sox-Rays Preview 2008-05-30

White Sox-Rays Preview 2008-05-30
Tropicana Field has rarely been a venue where the visiting team carries a collective chip on its shoulder.

But with the long-suffering Tampa Bay Rays getting a fair share of attention during their surge to first place in the AL East, the Chicago White Sox have extra motivation this weekend.

The surprising White Sox will look to hand Tampa Bay its first back-to-back home losses in six weeks on Friday, when the teams continue the first series between outright first-place clubs in the history of the ballpark.

The Rays (32-22) have deservedly been the talk of baseball this season, as they've won 24 of their last 35 games to move atop their division after finishing last season with the worst record in the majors.

They've never had a winning season in their history - including in 2000, when White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen finished his playing career with Tampa Bay.

"I feel proud of them," Guillen said. "They're doing a tremendous job. They have unbelievable talent, they know what they're doing. They're going in the right direction."

But the White Sox (30-23) also lost 90 games last season, and despite less fanfare, they're atop the AL Central after winning 12 of their last 15. They took the first of four in St. Petersburg with a 5-1 victory on Thursday.

While Joe Crede and Paul Konerko homered for Chicago, John Danks held down a Rays offense that had scored 34 runs in their previous five games.

"I didn't look at it any different than any other game," Danks said. "But deep down you know that they're winning a tough East and we're winning a tough Central, and this is a series where we feel like we can really make a statement."

The statement would be even louder given the Rays' success at home. Since the White Sox took two of three at Tropicana Field from April 18-20, the Rays are 17-3 at home, having won six straight series.

They haven't lost two straight there since April 15-18 against the New York Yankees and Chicago, but the White Sox already have their sights set even higher for the weekend.

"We feel like if we can come in here and hopefully sweep this series, we'll be sitting pretty headed into June," Danks said.

The White Sox have to like their chances Friday, at least, with Jose Contreras on the mound. In addition to being 5-0 with a 2.89 ERA in eight career appearances against the Rays, Contreras (5-3, 3.06 ERA) hasn't allowed more than two earned runs in any of his last four starts.

Over that span, the right-hander is 3-0 with a 1.61 ERA, allowing 17 hits in 28 innings. He did not receive a decision Sunday despite giving up three hits and two runs while striking out a season-high 10 in eight innings of Chicago's 3-2 win over the Los Angeles Angels.

Tampa Bay's James Shields (4-3, 3.38) has also been good, especially at home. In his last four starts in St. Petersburg, Shields is 2-1 with a 1.35 ERA, giving up 17 hits in 33 1-3 innings.

He, too, did not factor in the decision Sunday in a Rays walk-off win, as he gave up four runs - three earned - in eight innings against Baltimore.

The Rays may need some help at the end of games after closer Troy Percival was placed on the disabled list with a hamstring strain on Thursday. Dan Wheeler and Al Reyes are expected to share ninth-inning responsibilities in Percival's absence.

Author:Fox Sports
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Added: May 30, 2008

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