It’s one thing to say it’s early in the season in April and May. It’s a totally different thing to say that in June.

As the Chicago White Sox face the Tampa Bay Rays in St. Petersburg, Fla., on Saturday afternoon, the White Sox look like they’re spiraling out of control, mainly due to a lack of offense. At the same time, the Rays suddenly appear to have found their bats.

Tampa Bay, which had a 6-3 win in the opener of a three-game series on Friday night, is right where expected – in prime position for a playoff spot in the American League. Chicago is nowhere close to living up to the expectations of the preseason, when many assumed the White Sox would repeat as the champion of the American League Central.

Injuries, illnesses, bad luck and an anemic offense have been culprits in Chicago’s 23-27 start. With the White Sox sitting in third place, there is no reason to believe they suddenly will stop their four-game losing streak and turn things around.

Next up for Chicago is Tampa Bay’s Drew Rasmussen (5-2, 3.47 ERA). Even after the series with Tampa Bay wraps up Sunday, things don’t get any easier. The White Sox do get to go home, but they have to face the Los Angeles Dodgers.

All-star shortstop Tim Anderson is out with an injury.

“We know who’s missing,” Chicago manager Tony La Russa said. “But we also know the guys who are here are good enough to win games. Our guys know the games count and nobody is feeling sorry for us. You have to play your way through it. You have to find a way to win some games.”

The good news is that outfielder Luis Robert is back from the COVID-19 list. He went 2-for-5 on Friday to boost his season batting average to .293. First baseman Jose Abreu had a home run and ran his hitting streak to 12 games.

But those are the only two bright spots. Third baseman Yoan Moncada is back from injury, but is hitting .143, and catcher Yasmani Grandal continues his season-long slump. Grandal has had five seasons with more than 20 home runs, but has just two this year. Grandal is hitting .162.

“It will get anybody frustrated when you’re not able to do what you know you can,” Grandal told the Chicago Sun-Times.

The White Sox will turn to Dylan Cease (4-2, 3.69 ERA) to stop Tampa Bay’s three-game winning streak. Cease is 1-0 with a 1.59 ERA against the Rays this season and 1-1 in two career starts.

The Rays had been struggling offensively, scoring just 21 runs in their previous eight games before Friday night. But the Rays might not need to scrape by with pitching and defense anymore.

The Rays exploded for four runs in the first inning off White Sox starter Davis Martin, and their six runs were the most they scored since a 7-6 loss to Baltimore on May 22.

Tampa Bay will remain without injured shortstop Wander Franco for tnow, but they can turn to other sources of offense. Randy Arozarena hit a two-run home run in the opener and Ji-Man Choi drove in a run with a sacrifice fly and two more with a double.

“Ji-Man and Randy are the two guys that are giving us the really quality at-bats,” Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash said. “Let’s hope some more guys follow.”

–Field Level Media