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Tampa Bay at Chicago

Venue: U.S. Cellular Field
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The Chicago White Sox aren't panicking despite falling out of first place in the AL Central, but facing a streaking Tampa Bay Rays club may not be the best way to regroup.

The slumping White Sox open a four-game series Thursday night against the streaking Rays, who are trying to win eight straight for the first time in eight years.

Chicago fell into second place in the Central for the first time since July 23 following a 6-4 loss to Cleveland on Wednesday, dropping the final two games in the three-game set.

The White Sox (82-73), who are now one game behind Detroit with seven games remaining, have lost seven of eight. They issued a season-high 12 walks Wednesday and went 3 for 12 with runners in scoring position.

Chicago has averaged 2.5 runs and hit .226 the last eight games.

"You're talking about a game lead, two-game, everything is so fragile. You talk about the momentum swings that can happen. This is one of them, the wrong way," Paul Konerko said. "It doesn't mean in two days it doesn't swing the other way."

Konerko's slump hasn't helped. After going 0 for 4 Wednesday, his season average dropped to .299 - the first time it has been below .300 this year. He's 8 for 44 (.182) over the last 12 games.

Things don't get any easier for Konerko and the White Sox. Tampa Bay (85-70) matched its longest winning streak of the season with a seventh consecutive victory Wednesday, defeating Boston 4-2 to continue its late playoff push.

Carlos Pena and Ben Francisco homered during a three-run fifth and Alex Cobb gave up three hits in five innings.

The Rays are three games behind Oakland for the second AL wild card and must also overtake the Los Angeles Angels, but manager Joe Maddon is reminded of last year's late run and win on the final day of the regular season that propelled them into the playoffs.

"I want it to be exactly like last year," Maddon said. "It's starting to look a lot like Christmas."

Tampa Bay, which has outscored opponents 55-17 during the winning streak, appears to have the edge in the pitching matchup as the Rays look to win eight in a row for the first time since a club-record 12-game run June 9-22, 2004.

James Shields (15-9, 3.65 ERA), who is 7-2 with a 2.04 ERA in his last 10 starts, takes the mound. He went seven scoreless innings in a 12-1 win over Toronto last Friday, fanning nine to reach 200 strikeouts for a second straight season.

"I've worked hard over the last couple years to get my game back in action," Shields told the Rays' official website. "To be able to throw 200 innings and 200 strikeouts is definitely a goal in mind, and I'm proud to get there this year again."

The right-hander is 3-3 with a 4.95 ERA in 10 starts against the White Sox, including a 7-2 loss May 29 after giving up six runs and 10 hits over six innings.

The White Sox counter with Jake Peavy (11-12, 3.40), who is 4-7 with a 4.20 ERA since the All-Star break - and all four wins have come against last-place Minnesota.

He allowed five runs and eight hits over five innings of a 6-2 loss to the Angels last Friday.

"Maybe when this is over you'll look back on it and say 'this is nice,' but I need to find a way to win and get this team into the playoffs," the oft-injured right-hander said after his first 200-inning season since 2007.

Peavy is facing the Rays for the first time since 2010. He is 2-1 with a 6.48 ERA over three career starts against them.

The White Sox swept a three-game series against the Rays on the road in May.

Copyright 2014 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
 
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Probable Starters

James Shields, RHP
2012 stats
212.1 Innings Pitched 203.2
15-9 Wins-Losses 11-12
3.65 Earned Run Average 3.40
54 Walks 47
202 Strikeouts 180
109 Pitches Per Start 109
Career vs. opponent
67.1 Innings Pitched 16.2
3-3 Wins-Losses 2-1
4.95 Earned Run Average 6.48

Jake Peavy, RHP
Weather
weather image  Partly cloudy. Cool.
Hi TempLo TempWindHumidityPrecip %
64°F55°F12mph/N54%6%
Standings
TeamStandingsWLPct.GBL 10Strk
Tampa Bay4th AL East7580.48418 ½ 5-5 W 1
Chi White Sox4th AL Central7084.455166-4 L 1
BATTER VS. PITCHER (Career)
vs Jake Peavy
PlayerABHHRBBSOAVG
Zobrist43111.750
Brignac63001.500
Rodriguez21000.500
Upton52012.400
Roberts31000.333
 
BATTER VS. PITCHER (Career)
vs James Shields
PlayerABHHRBBSOAVG
Viciedo32000.667
Beckham125112.417
Ramirez208231.400
Wise103102.300
Rios3911126.282
 
Game Odds
AwayLineHomeLine
Tampa Bay -105 Chi. White Sox -105
Injuries
Tampa Bay
PlayerInjury
T. BeckhamKnee
D. JenningsKnee
M. MooreElbow
J. PeraltaIllness
J. SandsWrist
Chi White Sox
PlayerInjury
N. JonesElbow
F. PaulinoShoulder
 
Series Game Log
DateatResult/TimeWinnerLoser
Apr 25CHWCHW 9-6Lindstrom Balfour 
Apr 26CHWTB 4-0Ramos Danks 
Apr 27CHWCHW 9-2Carroll Price 
Apr 28CHWCHW 7-3Rienzo Odorizzi 
Sep 19TBCHW 4-3Quintana Hellickson 
Sep 20TBTB 3-1Archer Noesi 
Sep 21TB 1:40 PM EDT