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Sox’ damaging 10-4 loss to Rays is a stinker on many levels

White Sox Pitcher Chris Sale was taken out game 4th inning against TampBay Rays U.S. Cellular Field September 29 2012.

White Sox Pitcher Chris Sale was taken out of the game in the 4th inning against the Tampa Bay Rays, at U.S. Cellular Field, September 29, 2012. | Dom Najolia~Sun-Times

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Updated: November 1, 2012 9:49AM

Chris Sale took the loss hard and blamed himself.

Everyone else on the White Sox could have done the same.

“We stunk,’’ manager Robin Ventura said.

Given the task of keeping his team within a game of the Detroit Tigers, Sale couldn’t get out of the fourth inning, the Sox couldn’t hit and the Tampa Bay Rays rolled to a 10-4 victory that dropped the Sox two games behind the American League Central-leading Detroit Tigers before 26,559 at U.S. Cellular Field.

The Sox and Tigers, who beat the Minnesota Twins 6-4, have four games left. The Tigers’ magic number is three, meaning any combination of Sox losses and Tigers wins clinches the title everybody expected Detroit to win back in April.

Sale had good stuff — he struck out seven — but he had to work out of jams in the first two innings and walked the leadoff man in the third before Ben Zobrist doubled and Jeff Keppinger homered. Sale was charged with two additional runs in the fourth.

“He was just not in the zone enough,’’ Ventura said. “You don’t expect that out of him, but it is late in the year, and stuff can happen. Other than that, we stunk.’’

A day that began with renewed hope after the Sox had gained a game on the Tigers the night before to pull within one quickly soured when Sale (17-8) struggled while the Tigers were winning with their ace, Justin Verlander, on the mound.

As dusk was settling on the game that started at 3 p.m. to accommodate a national Fox Sports telecast, Ventura was going through seldom-used relievers Deunte Heath, Dylan Axelrod, Leyson Septimo and Jhan Marinez to finish this one out. While the Rays were building a 10-0 lead, Ventura emptied his bench, not so much to give his starters a rest but to see if anyone else could hit.

Orlando Hudson hit a pinch-hit, opposite-field grand slam in the eighth for the Sox’ only offense after Rays lefty Matt Moore had allowed one hit.

“It’s pretty simple,’’ Ventura said. “We did [stink]. We didn’t hit. Everybody that came off the bench seemed to hit or do something. That’s just the way it goes.’’

Sale, who very likely threw his last pitches — the rotation has been set up since August for him to pitch the first game of the playoffs — steered away from saying fatigue affected him, this being his first season as a starter.

“No chance,’’ he said. “I felt just as good as any time out. I felt strong; I just was all over the place. Just didn’t throw strikes. Walked a lot of guys. Gave up hits at the wrong times, and they capitalized on my mistakes. I just didn’t do anything to help myself or help the team.’’

Sale struck out 15 Rays in St. Petersburg, Fla., when he last faced them on Memorial Day. He has been the Sox’ best starter but his worst critic after losses, and he was no different after this one. Hearing Ventura’s “we stunk” assessment only amped up Sale’s emotions.

“We lost the game 10-4. I got knocked out after 31/3 innings. That was terrible,’’ he said. “That was a disgrace. For him to say that was terrible was probably putting that lightly.

“I did nothing to help the team win, put guys in positions that they shouldn’t have been in. To have your starter go three innings, that’s a recipe for disaster pretty much every time. Like I said before, I just didn’t do my job. The team needed me, and I didn’t pull it out for them. Just a frustrating day.’’

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