ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) - Jeff Niemann struggled again and the Chicago White Sox took full advantage.
Omar Vizquel, A.J. Pierzynski, Carlos Quentin and Paul Konerko each drove in two runs and the White Sox stopped a seven-game losing streak with a 9-2 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays on Thursday night.
Niemann (0-3) lasted just 4 2-3 innings, giving up six runs and six hits. He struck out four, walked two, hit two batters and threw a wild pitch.
``He's still not back where we need him to be, but he's on the verge,' Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon said. ``He's not far off despite what you may think. With him it's about sharpness, command with his pitches and he's not there yet. You see flashes of it.'
Niemann is 1-8 with an 8.87 ERA in 11 starts since going on the disabled list last year with a strained shoulder.
``I'm feeling good,' Niemann said. ``I just have to get better and make those crucial pitches.'
The White Sox had been outscored 11-2 in losing the first three games of the four-game series against Tampa Bay.
Gavin Floyd (2-1) allowed two runs in six innings. He struck out seven and hit two batters.
Sam Fuld had two RBIs for the Rays, who lost for just the second time in 10 games. Tampa Bay went 6-2 during an eight-game homestand.
``We didn't win tonight, but when you win three out of four versus the Twins and then the White Sox, that's not bad,' Maddon said. ``I'll take it.'
Juan Pierre opened the first with a bunt single and went to third when Rays third baseman Felipe Lopez was charged with an error for an errant throw to first on the play. Pierre then scored to make it 1-0 on Vizquel's grounder.
Pierre also started a four-run third against Niemann with another bunt single. Vizquel doubled home a run, Konerko and Adam Dunn each had RBI singles and Pierzynski hit a sacrifice fly.
``The way the team's playing right now, all you want to do is go out there and keep the momentum rolling,' Niemann said. ``Giving up a big inning like that is definitely going to halt the momentum.'
Fuld cut the Rays' deficit to 5-2 in the fourth with a two-run single.
Chicago took a 6-2 lead on Pierzynski's RBI single in the fifth. Quentin extended the advantage to 8-2 on a two-run double during the sixth.
Konerko added an RBI single in the eighth.
Rays designated hitter Johnny Damon went 1 for 4 in his return after missing the previous three games because of a left ring finger injury. He picked up career hit 2,585, which moved him past Reggie Jackson into 79th place all-time, on his third-inning single.
``He looked good after taking a couple days off,' Maddon said.
NOTES: Damon has a 10-game hitting streak. ... All eight Rays' hits were singles. ... Fuld went 2 for 5 for his seventh multihit game this season. ... Vizquel replaced 2B Gordon Beckham, who is mired in a 2 for 25 slide. Guillen said he may move Beckham out of the second spot in the lineup to help the infielder relax. ... Vizquel played in his 2,855th game, which is one away from tying Robin Yount for 14th place all-time.
The Associated Press News Service
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