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RAYS UNABLE TO CLIMB FROM HOMER HOLE

Hernandez surrenders blasts to unlikely trio and rally falls short.

The Rays have found a number of ways to lose games this season. Friday night, it was when starter Roberto Hernandez, who typically doesn't allow many home runs, or even fly balls, watched three pitches fly out of the park.

The result was a 5-4 loss to the White Sox that dropped the Rays to 10-13 and extended their woeful performance on the road, with only two wins in their first 11 games away from the Trop.

It was the first time in 189 big-league games that Hernandez allowed three home runs in the same game.

Making it more frustrating Friday, he did so after the Rays had built a 3-0 lead, and he didn't give them up to the big hitters in the Chicago lineup.

Instead, it was backup catcher Hector Gimenez (the first homer of his big-league career), reserve infielder Tyler Greene (his 17th) and third baseman Conor Gillaspie (his third).

The Rays made a late bid in the ninth when Matt Joyce singled in Jose Molina with two outs, but after Ryan Roberts walked, Ben Zobrist struck out.

The Rays took a 1-0 lead in the third when Joyce, in another of those Joe Maddon things, was moved into the leadoff spot because he was struggling. He responded in his second at-bat with a home run.

It was the third time Maddon has put Joyce in the leadoff spot (twice in 2011), and he has homered in all three games. Maddon's theory is that it helps struggling power hitters to change their approach and focus on getting on base, eliminating the urge to try to do too much.

Joyce needed something, as he came into the game hitting .185 with his only RBIs on two solo homers. His single in the ninth inning was his first hit of the season with a runner in scoring position.

Joyce said, as he has before, that his problems stem from a lack of consistent playing time. He had started only twice in the previous seven games because the Rays faced several left-handers.

Maddon basically said yes, but ... pointing out that Joyce's bigger issue was not having a good feel for his strike zone.

"He needs to get out there and just get back to organizing his strike zone," Maddon said. "Because in the past, historically, even when he was not playing on a consistent basis, if he's going well, he's able to handle those moments. He's just a little bit out of kilter, and we've got to get him back going again.

"He has got such great knowledge of his personal strike zone, and once he does that, once he gets back to not chasing pitches or getting back to accepting his walks, those are the kind of things that I think are more important than anything else. And after that, the hard contact will follow."

The Rays extended the lead to 3-0 in the fourth inning. Evan Longoria led off with an opposite-field home run, his sixth in his last 12 games, giving him 468 RBIs, tying Carlos Pena for second on the Rays' all-time list behind Carl Crawford's 592. James Loney followed with a double, his second of the game, then moved to third on a sacrifice bunt - yes, a sac bunt - and scored on Kelly Johnson's single.

Marc Topkin can be reached at topkin@tampabay.com.

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