ST. PETERSBURG -- The White Sox picked up their first four-game winning streak of the season, their first three-game sweep since Aug. 8-10, 2017, against the Astros and their first road sweep since April 25-27, 2016, in Toronto -- courtesy of Daniel Palka's 439-foot blast in the ninth inning of
ST. PETERSBURG -- The White Sox picked up their first four-game winning streak of the season, their first three-game sweep since Aug. 8-10, 2017, against the Astros and their first road sweep since April 25-27, 2016, in Toronto -- courtesy of Daniel Palka's 439-foot blast in the ninth inning of an 8-7 victory over Tampa Bay on Sunday at Tropicana Field.
Rays reliever Diego Castillo had retired the first two hitters in the ninth before Jose Abreu singled to left and Palka connected on a 96.2-mph first-pitch fastball for his 17th home run of the season. Palka had struck out in each of his first four at-bats before the ninth. Hector Santiago earned the win as the White Sox fifth reliever, despite giving up one run in the bottom of the ninth.
"I was jokingly saying it earlier -- just trying to make contact," Palka said. "But that's really what I was doing. Just had to forget the first eight-ninths of the game and move on from there."
"It's pretty impressive to watch. His work ethic is phenomenal every day," said White Sox starting pitcher James Shields of Palka. "He comes to the ballpark and gets his work in. To see the results that he's doing in a game is a testament to what he's done."
Shields, who was honored this weekend as part of the 2008 American League champion Rays, allowed two earned runs (four total) over six innings, striking out six and walking four against his old team. Shields left with a 6-4 lead but finished with a no-decision, meaning he has not won on the road since Opening Day against the Royals.
After the 114-pitch effort, Shields admitted to having nothing early and no feel for the baseball over the first four innings. He found a rhythm in his last two frames on the mound.
"We ended up getting it done," Shields said. "Good win."
The White Sox carried a 6-4 lead into the seventh on the strength of two home runs from Avisail Garcia, giving him 12 long balls in his last 28 games. Tim Anderson also knocked out two hits and drove in two, while catcher Dustin Garneau, replacing Kevan Smith who is on the paternity list for the birth of his son, picked up his first single and first RBI with the White Sox.
But the relief tandem of Xavier Cedeno and Jeanmar Gomez could not hold the lead in the seventh. Gomez managed to strike out pinch-hitter C.J. Cron with the bases loaded and nobody out but then gave up a two-run single to Ji-Man Choi to tie the game.
Ultimately the White Sox prevailed, taking the season series from the Rays, 4-2. Palka pulverized the opposition as the finishing touch, just as he did as a pinch-hitter on Thursday against the Royals to start the streak.
"The second half has been pretty strong," said Palka of the 41-70 White Sox. "I don't think it's ultimately as good as we actually are. Some things haven't come together, but it's been a good start to the second half."
"Over the weekend and the past week, we've been playing some good baseball overall," Shields said. "The guys are really putting it together."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
No room for wildness: With the bases loaded, one out and the game tied in the seventh, both Brandon Lowe and pinch-hitter Carlos Gomez worked the count full against White Sox relievers. Jace Fry struck out Lowe for the second out, and Tyler Danish retired Gomez on a grounder to second baseman Yoan Moncada to end the threat.
LEURY EXITS EARLY
Leury Garcia, who started in center field Sunday, left the game in the ninth with left hamstring soreness. He will be re-evaluated Monday, as Adam Engel replaced him defensively. White Sox manager Rick Renteria said Garcia hurt himself while making the catch on a Matt Duffy flyout in the eighth.
Eloy Jimenez, the White Sox top prospect per MLB Pipeline and No. 3 overall, was scratched from Sunday's lineup for Triple-A Charlotte. But sources tell MLB.com that Jimenez was held out of the lineup with flu-like symptoms.
HE SAID IT
"This whole weekend was really special for me personally. To be able to come see the boys from 2008, celebrate that, it's a good moment in our careers. To be able to have Tampa do that for us was pretty special." -- Shields
Dylan Covey (4-7, 5.57) is scheduled to make his 15th start of the season, eighth at home and first vs. the New York Yankees in the start of a six-game homestand Monday at Guaranteed Rate Field. First pitch is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. CT with Lance Lynn on the mound for the Yankees. Covey is 1-6 with an 8.68 ERA, eight homers allowed, a .299 opponents average and 1.82 WHIP over his last eight starts.
Scott Merkin has covered the White Sox for MLB.com since 2003. Follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin and Facebook and listen to his podcast.