St. Petersburg, FL – Jose Molina and Kelly Johnson stroked back-to-back homers as part of a five-run second inning in the Tampa Bay Rays' 8-3 win against the Chicago White Sox Friday in the opener of a three-game series at Tropicana Field.
The early outburst provided more than enough run support for Rays right-hander Jeremy Hellickson (8-3), who held the White Sox to one run on six hits while fanning nine over seven solid innings to notch his fourth straight victory.
"I think tonight was a good example of what I've been doing the last couple games...getting that big out when I need to," Hellickson remarked.
Wil Myers registered two RBI, while Desmond Jennings added three hits and two runs scored for the Rays, who have won six of their last seven games.
Chicago starter Dylan Axelrod (3-5) failed to make it out of the second inning after being tagged for five runs on nine hits in just 1 2/3 frames to take the loss.
"Everything was elevated it seemed like," Chicago manager Robin Ventura said of Axelrod. "There wasn't anything that was kind of down in the zone."
Josh Phegley plated a pair of runs for the White Sox, who have lost seven of their last nine games.
After stranding a pair of baserunners in the first, the Rays broke through in a big way in the second, as Luke Scott scorched a leadoff double and Molina followed two batters later with a towering drive into the left-field seats.
Three pitches later, Johnson jumped on a slider and pulled it deep into the seats in right field to give the Rays a 3-0 lead.
Jennings then singled and stole second before scoring two batters later on Evan Longoria's single through the left side of the infield.
James Loney followed suit with a base hit to left before Myers capped the outburst with a double to left to score Longoria for a 5-0 cushion.
Axelrod was promptly lifted in favor of Ramon Troncoso, who grounded out Scott to end the lengthy inning.
The Rays loaded the bases with no outs in the fourth, as Jennings smacked a leadoff single and stole second before back-to-back walks packed the bags.
After Loney fanned, Myers ripped a sacrifice fly to center field to plate Jennings and Scott followed with a base hit back up the middle to score Matt Joyce and push the margin to 7-0.
The White Sox finally broke through in the fifth when Gordon Beckham smacked a one-out double and scored on Phegley's single to right, but Loney worked a bases-loaded walk in the bottom half to restore Tampa Bay's seven-run lead.
Chicago threatened in the ninth, as three consecutive singles loaded the bases for Beckham, who made it four in a row with a base hit to right to score Dayan Viciedo and bring the White Sox within 8-2.
Phegley followed with a sac fly to center to trim the margin to five, but Alejandro De Aza grounded out to end the contest.
Loney extended his hit streak to a career-high 16 games with a single in the first ... Phegley was recalled from Triple-A Charlotte, as was outfielder Blake Tekotte, while catcher Hector Gimenez was designated for assignment prior to the game ... Myers has hit safely in 15 of his 18 career games since his June 18 call-up ... Chicago had won its last four games at Tropicana Field.