Chicago, IL – Evan Longoria blasted the go-ahead home run in the top of the ninth inning as the Tampa Bay Rays edged the Chicago White Sox, 3-2, in the opener of a four-game series at US Cellular Field.
Brett Myers (3-4) got Ben Zobrist to ground out for the first out of the inning, but served up a spinning breaking ball to Longoria, who smashed it over the left-center field wall for his 14th long ball of the season.
Joel Peralta (2-6) earned the win with a scoreless eighth inning and Fernando Rodney worked around a two-out base hit by Kevin Youkilis to record his 46th save of the season.
Luke Scott went 2-for-3 with a solo home run for the Rays, who are two games behind the Oakland Athletics for the second and final wild card spot in the American League.
"It's one game. I hate to bring down the mood, but it doesn't put us ahead," Longoria said. "It bring us a little closer, but it doesn't guarantee anything."
Youkilis finished with three hits and Dayan Viciedo knocked in a run for the White Sox, who fell two games behind the Detroit Tigers for the top spot in the AL Central.
"The efforts there, everybody's grinding, giving everything they've got, it's just not happening," White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko remarked.
Tampa Bay broke a scoreless deadlock in the fourth. Zobrist led off the frame with a scorching double off the wall in right-center field, moved to third via a flyout by Longoria and crossed the plate on a sacrifice fly by Carlos Pena.
Adam Dunn and Konerko worked back-to-back walks and Alex Rios followed with a base hit in the home fourth to load the bases with no outs.
Tampa Bay starter James Shields fanned A.J. Pierzynski, but plunked Viciedo to bring in the tying run. The threat continued as the Sox had the bags full with one out, but Alexei Ramirez popped out and Gordon Beckham lined out to end the inning.
Despite giving up the lead in the bottom of the fourth, the lengthy half- inning proved to be beneficial to the Rays as White Sox starter Jake Peavy came out for the top of the fifth and was not sharp.
He fell behind 3-0 to Scott before serving up a towering shot to right field on a 3-1 pitch for Scott's 14th home run of the season and a 2-1 Tampa Bay lead.
Chicago loaded the bases with no outs for the second consecutive inning, but Shields wiggled his way out of a big inning again as he got Konerko to ground into a double play, which plated the tying run, before fanning Rios to end the frame.
Chicago has lost eight of its last nine games ... Peavy allowed just two runs on four hits and a walk with six strikeouts over 7 1/3 innings. The White Sox are 15-16 in Peavy's starts this season ... Chicago went 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position and left 10 on base ... Shields allowed two runs on six hits and four walks over 6 1/3 innings.