CHICAGO — The Tampa Bay Rays helped White Sox pitcher Chris Sale match his best record, and they moved a step closer to one of their worst records in years.
The Rays managed to hit the ball off Sale on Tuesday night, but couldn’t match Chicago’s explosive offense, falling 13-6 for their fifth straight defeat, allowing Sale (17-9) to match his career-best win total.
The Rays have five games left in the season, and would need to win two of those to avoid their worst record since the 2007 season when they were 66-96.
They will play two more against the White Sox, before finishing out the season with a three-game series at Texas.
Tampa Bay starter Alex Cobb (1-2) allowed eight runs and eight hits in three innings. But it was just Cobb’s fifth start after coming back from Tommy John surgery following an injury that had kept him out since 2014, and Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash said he was pleased with another step in a long comeback process for the pitcher.
“It’s part of the lumps and growing pains of coming back,” Cash said. “It’s been a long road back but … him being healthy, that’s what we’re most concerned about.”
Cobb said it obviously wasn’t a good start, but had a similar outlook.
“I walked off the mound, felt a little upset about it, then got down in the dugout and realized I’m healthy, and looked back on the entire journey of it, and feel fortunate to be in the situation I’m in,” he said. “I think with an offseason, starting from scratch, building back up, getting rid of some bad habits, I’ll get there.”
Cobb’s ERA swelled to 8.59. The right-hander has given up 15 runs over 4 1/3 innings in his last two starts.
Sale, on the other hand, finished the year in top form as he matched his best record since 2012, when he was 17-8. Sale started the season on a tear, but Tuesday’s win was just his third since July 2.
Sale allowed eight hits and three runs in seven innings, and struck out seven, retiring the last seven batters in Chicago’s fourth straight win.
“I feel as good now as I ever have on a baseball field, physically,” Sale said. “I think this year was the best overall, feeling strong at the end and still having more in the tank.”
The lefty had received three runs or fewer in eight of his last 12 starts, but run support was no issue this time.
The White Sox hit Cobb right away, getting three runs in the first before they even made an out, culminating with Melky Cabrera’s two-run homer.
Leury Garcia added a three-run shot in the third for the Sox. Garcia also tripled when Mikie Mahtook misplayed his liner to center in a two-run second. Tim Anderson added three hits, including a solo homer in the eighth off Chase Whitley, the 204th allowed by Tampa Bay this season.
In all, the White Sox had 14 hits, eight for extra bases, as they again avoided clinching their fourth straight losing season.
Ex-White Sox shortstop Alexei Ramirez had a two-run single in the second and Curt Casali led off the fourth with a homer for the Rays, who have scored 11 runs in five games.
Rays: CF Kevin Kiermaier (wrist) missed his second straight game since getting hit by a pitch. Kiermaier said there was still pain when swinging. “Hopefully, another day will help,” he said. … Nick Franklin (hamstring) remained sidelined.
White Sox: Eaton (hip) started for the first time since crashing into the wall while making a catch Friday in Cleveland. “I’m not going to give up a double for not feeling great,” Eaton said of his hard-charging style. “If it’s the wall we have here, I play the next day. It just happened that the wall was really hard.”
Sale, a five-time All-Star, has thrown a career-high 221 2/3 innings this season.
Tampa Bay 2B Juniel Querecuto’s two-run triple in the ninth off Matt Albers was his first major league hit.
Rays rookie LHP Blake Snell (6-8, 3.65 ERA) makes his last start of the season Wednesday night against White Sox RHP Miguel Gonzalez (4-7, 3.83).