Bullpen Falters as Sox Fall to Rays 9-7

Saturday, Apr 9, 2011  |  Updated 6:15 PM CDT
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PHOTOS: Sox Opening Day 2011

AP

Chicago White Sox's Carlos Quentin rounds the bases after hitting a double against the Tampa Bay Rays during the eighth inning.

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Ozzie Guillen understands his bullpen is struggling. He just isn't ready to start overhauling it.

So Matt Thornton appears to be safe as the closer, at least for now.

Dan Johnson hit a three-run homer off the White Sox's left-hander to cap a five-run ninth, and the Rays rallied for their first win of the season hours after Manny Ramirez retired, beating Chicago 9-7 Friday night.

"People can point or do whatever they want. We played a very good baseball game, all the way to the ninth," Guillen said. "We win as a team, we lose as a team. That's his job, to go out there and save, or lose, but obviously we did not help him to make the inning very easy for him."

With a 7-4 lead, he gave up a leadoff single to pinch-hitter Elliot Johnson, who scored from second with one out when Alexei Ramirez threw wildly to first after fielding Sam Fuld's grounder to short. Things unraveled from there.

Juan Pierre then dropped Johnny Damon's fly to left, putting runners on first and second, before B.J. Upton delivered an RBI single to left to make it a one-run game.

Johnson, who came into the game with a .043 average, then drove the first pitch out to right to make it 9-7.

That made a winner out of Adam Russell (1-0). Farnsworth pitched the ninth for his first save.

"It's a sense of relief," Johnson said. "I was panicking so much, trying to stay loose and hadn't been able to do it up there. It really helps out, confidence-wise."

Thornton, meanwhile, blew his second save in as many chances. The bullpen as a whole isn't faring well.

"I might put a bomb out there and kill everyone," Guillen said with typical sarcasm.

He gave a dismissive harumph. Then, he continued, "You look at the game, he give up the runs, but we don't help him. What is the plan? He's going to get most of the save situations, but obviously when you pitch one inning, two inning, three innings to get used to that role, you're going to need some help. Right now, what should I do? I don't think I should do anything right now."

Thornton's meltdown spoiled a big day for Gordon Beckham and Mark Teahen, who each had three hits and a homer, and denied John Danks his first win. Ramirez went deep off James Shields, and the White Sox looked like they were going to win their third straight without slugger Adam Dunn, who's recovering from an appendectomy.

Instead, the Rays staged a dramatic rally. Even so, the big news came before the game.

Manager Joe Maddon expected to have Manny Ramirez back in the cleanup spot after he had left the team earlier in the week to tend to what was called a personal matter.

Instead, they were saying goodbye to one of the most accomplished and controversial sluggers the game has seen.

"When you lose seven games in a row, it normally takes something very awkward to get you righted," manager Joe Maddon said. "It began today by Manny retiring and culminated with Johnson hitting a home run against one of the better left-handed relievers in baseball. That's the unpredictability of our game."

Danks allowed four runs and six hits while walking four. He left leading 5-3 after Tampa Bay loaded the bases with none out in the seventh.

Jesse Crain retired the side in the eighth before Thornton coughed it up.

"We know he's going to get outs," Danks said. "He's the same guy as he was when he was throwing in the seventh and eighth innings. We like having him out there. I think today was a fluky deal. There wasn't a whole lot he could have done different."

Shields allowed five runs and eight hits and was lifted with none out in the seventh after he hit Brent Morel in the left wrist and Pierre reached on an error by Johnson at first.

Joel Peralta came on and tagged out Morel trying to score on a pitch that got by catcher Kelly Shoppach, who immediately left the game with a sore right knee and was replaced by John Jaso.

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