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

Velasquez allowed four first-inning runs, the offense struggled to convert scoring chances and the Sox were unable to complete a three-game sweep.

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

White Sox pitcher Vince Velasquez reacts after a bases-loaded walk during the first inning of Sunday’s game.


White Sox right-hander Vince Velasquez could have let his start Sunday get out of hand. After a choppy first inning, however, Velasquez was able to give the Sox’ taxed bullpen some relief and the offense a chance to get back into the game.

The latter didn’t happen in the Sox’ 9-3 loss to the Rays that deprived them of a three-game sweep. Velasquez and manager Tony La Russa, however, were heartened by how he recovered from the Rays’ four-run first.

‘‘That was the highlight of the day,’’ La Russa said. ‘‘He was really upset. He’s a very conscientious guy, and he gutted it out. He gave us a great chance, but we couldn’t do enough offensively.’’

During a 35-pitch inning in which seven consecutive Rays reached at one point, Velasquez walked in two runs. With one out and the bases loaded and the Rays already ahead 1-0, Velasquez had a chance to escape trouble when Rays left fielder Josh Lowe hit a comebacker for what could have been a double play.

But Velasquez couldn’t corral the ball and didn’t record an out, allowing the second run to score and the inning to continue.

‘‘It was off to the side,’’ La Russa said. ‘‘He tried to be quick with it. He didn’t really have his footing. He’s probably the best athlete on the team. He was kind of moving away and tried to adjust his feet. That’s the way the inning went for him and for us.’’

Velasquez was disappointed he couldn’t make the play.

‘‘I’m one of those athletes, I can pop off the mound,’’ Velasquez said. ‘‘I like jumping off. I like communicating with my infield to see where they’re at, knowing that I can reach those balls. But [the ball] kind of hit me in the palm a little bit. Didn’t have a full grip on it.’’

Velasquez ended up lasting 4‰ innings and throwing 85 pitches, giving up nothing else after the first. And with Lucas Giolito and Lance Lynn injured, the Sox will need Velasquez to build on how his start ended.

‘‘That first inning happens to people, but his progress with us and how much we like him, I’m glad that he did that later on because that’s what we think of him,’’ La Russa said. ‘‘He’s a good competitor and has good stuff and started making better pitches.’’

Velasquez said he knows he will have to do one thing better — limit the walks — the next time he takes the mound. In his Sox debut Tuesday against the Mariners, Velasquez walked three batters. He repeated that Sunday, and it bit him early.

‘‘I could’ve contained that inning in the first inning,’’ Velasquez said. ‘‘What really kills me is knowing I have six walks in my last two starts. That’s not a good sign.’’

Through nine games, however, the Sox have shown some good signs. Their offense hasn’t reached high gear, but they’re 6-3 after taking series from the Tigers, who are expected to be improved; the Mariners, who are coming off a 90-victory season; and the Rays, who won the American League East by eight games last season.

‘‘Whenever you win the first three series, that’s your job,’’ designated hitter Gavin Sheets said. ‘‘Obviously, we could have had some chances at some sweeps, but you go into every series trying to win it. We’ve taken care of that job so far, and now we’ve got a big one against Cleveland.’’

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