Punchless White Sox swept away by magnificent Rays

It was the Sox’ first time being swept at Tropicana Field since 2015 and their first time being swept by any opponent this season, which hardly seems possible considering they’ve yet to win a series themselves or even win two games in a row.

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Chicago White Sox v Tampa Bay Rays

The White Sox’ Lucas Giolito waits for the ball while the Rays’ Luke Raley rounds the bases with a second-inning home run Sunday at Tropicana Field.

Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — There’s no such thing as a must-win game in April, is there?

Maybe in basketball or hockey, but certainly not in baseball.

Still, White Sox pitcher Lucas Giolito arrived at the ballpark Sunday, his day to start, in that very mindset.

‘‘Considering how we’ve been playing,’’ he said, ‘‘I’m seeing all my starts as pretty much must-win games.’’

That’s a heavy thing to be saying already. But the Sox (7-15) left Tropicana Field with the weight of the world on their shoulders after falling 4-1 to the runaway Rays for their fourth loss in a row and ninth in their last 11 games. It was the Sox’ first time being swept here since 2015 and their first time being swept by any opponent this season, which hardly seems possible, considering they’ve yet to win a series themselves or even win back-to-back games.

Giolito went seven innings in his 150th career start, but the Rays (19-3) got to him early, starting with a home run by Luke Raley in the second that extended their MLB-record streak of going deep in every game to start a season to 22. Harold Ramirez homered against Giolito in the third.

‘‘There were way too many mistakes early in the game,’’ said Giolito, who called the changeup Raley belted one of his worst in a long time.

It was the quickest Sox game of the season — 2 hours, 2 minutes — mainly because Rays starter Zach Eflin and relievers Yonny Chirinos and Pete Fairbanks kept the ball down and the Sox dutifully obliged by beating it into the turf for 13 ground-ball outs.

‘‘Those are adjustments that we have to find ways to make during the game,’’ manager Pedro Grifol said.

The Sox mustered all of three hits, and their last 17 hitters were retired in order.

The third and final hit was a double off Eloy Jimenez’s bat in an interesting top of the fourth. Leading off, Andrew Benintendi — still seeking his first homer with the Sox — pounded one 404 feet high off the wall in center. Two batters later, Jimenez found the wall 392 feet away in left-center, driving in Benintendi. Next up was Gavin Sheets, who pulled one all the way to the wall in right, but it was caught. Three big flies but a lone run, which was deflating after the Sox were walked off in the first two games of the series.

‘‘We definitely have not played our best,’’ Benintendi said. ‘‘I think we haven’t clicked as a team yet as far as hitting and pitching at the same time. You know, there’s a lot of games we have kept ourselves in and had a chance to win. That’s only going to benefit us moving forward. Still a lot of season left, but we definitely need to start making a move here.’’

Fortunately for the Sox, they play in a division so sorry-looking to this point that they pretty much can refuse to fall out of the race whether they realize they’re doing that or not. Though the Twins won Sunday — pushing the Sox to five games back — they’ve still lost six of their last eight and just dropped a weekend series at home to the tanking Nationals. The Guardians have lost five of their last seven, the Tigers have lost four in a row and the Royals are carrying the unthinkable burden of being the Royals.

The Rays are 13-0 at home. They score more runs than anybody else. They give up fewer than anybody else. Their defense, too, absolutely can sparkle, as it did Sunday with right fielder Raley, first baseman Yandy Diaz and third baseman Isaac Paredes leading the way.

Maybe the Rays are just a winning machine. And the Sox?

‘‘The feeling right now, it sucks because you don’t want to lose,’’ Jimenez said. ‘‘You do whatever you have to do to win. But it’s OK. We know those games are going to come back and we are going to win.’’

They’ll try again starting Monday in Toronto against a very good-looking Blue Jays squad coming off a series victory at Yankee Stadium.

‘‘It’s going to turn around,’’ Grifol said. ‘‘We’ve just got to fight.’’

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