By MATT CARLSON
CHICAGO (AP) — Rookie slugger Jake Burger had a solo homer and an RBI single, Dylan Cease dominated into the sixth inning and the Chicago White Sox beat the Tampa Bay Rays 3-2 Friday night.
Cease (2-0) struck out eight and allowed just one run over 5 2/3 innings. Gavin Sheets and Leury Garcia each doubled and scored, and Chicago improved to 5-2 for its best start since 2016.
“I felt great about this one,” Cease said. “I felt my command and feel was a lot better.”
Ji-Man Choi and Yandy Diaz doubled in runs off reliever Aaron Bummer in Tampa Bay’s third straight loss. The Rays have dropped four of five after starting the season 3-0.
Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash credited Cease with keeping his team off balance.
“He's got good stuff," Cash said. "You understand from the side why he strikes so many people out.”
Cease gave up three hits and two walks but was otherwise overwhelming coming off a strong season debut in Detroit on Sunday. The right-hander threw 91 pitches before Bummer entered with two outs in the sixth and Brandon Lowe on first. Choi and Diaz hit consecutive doubles to get Tampa Bay on the board.
The 26-year-old Burger was a first-round pick in 2017 but didn't play at all between 2018-20 due to injuries — including tearing his left Achilles tendon twice — and the pandemic. He reached the majors last year for 15 games and now has a pair of two-hit games in five appearances this season.
“Every day I'm blessed to be playing this sport,” Burger said. “I was sitting on my couch and rehabbing two years and I'm just super thankful to get the opportunity I get every day.”
Burger was at third with Yoán Moncada sidelined with an oblique strain.
“The scouting report, they're going to have a hard time trying to figure out how to pitch to him,” Chicago manager Tony La Russa said. “He does a lot of good things at the plate and one of them is he can handle tough pitches.”
Kendall Graveman fanned two in a perfect eighth. Liam Hendriks tossed a 1-2-3 ninth for his third save.
“We're just not locked in right now,” Cash said. “It's fair to say we've got one or two guys, namely Wander (Franco) and Ji-Man, and outside of that we've got guys who are still trying to get their comfort zone.”
Drew Rasmussen (0-1) allowed three runs and five hits in five innings.
The White Sox took a 1-0 lead in the second when Sheets scored from third on Rasmussen’s wild pitch.
Burger hit Rasmussen’s first pitch in the third deep to left center for his first homer this season and a 2-0 lead. Burger singled in Garcia during the fifth to make it 3-0.
Rays right fielder Brett Phillips made a diving catch to rob Yasmani Grandal of a hit in the sixth inning.
The Rays are scheduled to play six straight games in Chicago. Tampa Bay faces the White Sox for three over the weekend, then moves to the Wrigley Field for three with the Cubs next week.
Rays: LHP Ryan Yarbrough (left groin tightness) could rejoin the Rays next week, manager Kevin Cash said. Yarbrough hasn’t pitched yet this season.
White Sox: Slugger Eloy Jiménez returned to the lineup in left field. He left Wednesday’s game against Seattle in the fifth inning after fouling a ball off his left ankle and sat out Thursday. ... INF Josh Harrison (sore back) could return on Saturday, manager Tony La Russa said.
Rays RHP Corey Kluber (0-0, 0.00) faces White Sox RHP Michael Kopech (0-0, 2.25) on Saturday. Kluber, a two-time Cy Young Award winner, will make his second start with the Rays after signing one-year, $8 million contract as a free agent. The 36-year-old threw 4 2/3 innings and 87 pitches in an 8-0 win over Baltimore last Sunday.
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