Vince Velasquez, White Sox can’t overcome rocky first inning in loss to Rays

With Lucas Giolito and Lance Lynn injured, the White Sox’ rotation depth has been tested. In his second start, Vince Velasquez’s opening frame did nothing to make the Sox forget who they’re missing.

Velasquez went 4 2/3 innings and gave up fourruns while walking threein the Sox’ 9-3loss Sunday to the Rays. After an encouraging four-inning, one-run performance on April 12 against Seattle, Velasquez struggled in a four-run first and the Sox were unable to sweep Tampa Bay.

Sox designated hitter Gavin Sheets homered in the ninth.

During a 35-pitch frame when seven straight Rays reached, Velasquez walked in two and gave up Manuel Margot’s RBI single. The key play in the inning came with one out and the bases loaded and Tampa Bay ahead 1-0. Rays left fielder Josh Lowe hit a comebacker to Velasquez for what should’ve been an inning-ending 1-2-3 double play, but the Sox pitcher couldn’t field the ball and didn’t record any outs.

Velasquez did recover to throw 3 2/3 scoreless innings after the difficult first. He ended the day with 85 pitches before being replaced by Tanner Banks.

“He’s a competitor. He’s a really good athlete, outstanding athlete, outstanding competitor,” Sox manager Tony La Russa said of Velasquez before the game. “He wants it bad. Just make sure he breathes and stays within himself.”

Lowe must’ve done something similar in the bottom of the first when he leapt and reached back over the fence to take away a leadoff home run from Tim Anderson. Anderson also thought he had an RBI in the third he appeared to beat out a grounder to first but was called out after review.

Facing a Rays team that used opener J.P. Feyereisen, those were the Sox’ best chance to score until the fourth against reliever Chris Mazza. The Sox loaded the bases with one out and scored when Sheets was hit by a pitch. That was all for the Sox in that inning, as second baseman Josh Harrison struck out to end a nine-pitch at-bat before third baseman Jake Burger grounded into a force.

The Sox created another opportunity in the fifth when right fielder Adam Engel led off with a single and Anderson followed with a walk. Mazza walked first baseman Jose Abreu to load the bases and was replaced by Tampa Bay reliever Jalen Beeks. Catcher Yasmani Grandal popped out but with left fielder Eloy Jimenez at the plate, a passed ball by Rays catcher Francisco Mejia allowed Engel to score. The inning ended when a Beeks pitch got away from Mejia and Anderson tried to score but was tagged out.

Any hopes the Sox had for a rally ended during the Rays’ four-run eighth. After replacing Matt Foster, Sox reliever Anderson Severino allowed a two-run Mejia single and RBI doubles by Wander Franco and Randy Arozarena. Severino was charged with three of the four runs and threw two wild pitches.

Rays center fielder Kevin Kiermaier added a ninth-inning RBI single off the Sox’ Kyle Crick.

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