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updated: 6/25/2011 8:51 PM

Gut-check game a big win for Sox

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The White Sox won a game Saturday that is the stuff of division championships.

Especially in a division as shabby as the AL Central.

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This was one of those victories that translated the Sox' "All in" marketing slogan from billboards to the Comiskey Park field.

Turning point? Who knows? The Sox have had too many turning points this season that turned out not to be.

So it's dangerous to proclaim any isolated success to be enduring.

However, this 3-0 victory over the Washington Nationals certainly qualified as the latest candidate.

"The last time I saw the coaching staff so happy," Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said, "was when we won the World Series."

The reason is the Sox won a game they had every right to lose. It moved them to within 3 games of first-place Cleveland. Even at two games under .500, they continue to look like the best house on a bad block.

Guillen and his coaches were ecstatic because the victory might have been more improbable than winning the World Series in 2005.

Starting pitcher John Danks left in the second inning with a strained right oblique muscle. The bullpen was exhausted following Friday night's 14-inning loss.

Adam Dunn is hitting .176. Alex Rios is at .227. Gordon Beckham is at .228. Juan Pierre sat this one out at .248.

"This was the kind of game where you have an excuse (to lose)," Guillen said. "We did the opposite."

The Sox won with a sacrifice fly in the first inning, before Danks left, and with 2 runs in the eighth thanks to Rios' squibber and Ramon Castro's blooper.

Brian Bruney was an unlikely contributor. After yielding 2 runs in an inning of work the night before, he relieved Danks with 2⅓ innings of scoreless ball.

Most of all the Sox overcame because Jake Peavy backed up all his implied "I'm the toughest man in the world" bluster by demonstrating what he means.

Peavy celebrated his first major-league relief appearance with 4 scoreless, 1-hit innings and was credited with the victory for his trouble.

Sox pitchers knew before the game even started the jam Guillen was in. They knew it was even worse after Danks left holding his side, and not because it was splitting from laughter.

The Sox could have retreated on this day and relaxed to compete another day. Instead they conceded nothing to the surging Nats.

Remember, Peavy is perpetually injured. Yet he risked getting hurt again by throwing 55 pitches, not in a side session between starts but under the stress of what was a 1-0 game all the time he was on the mound.

Hey, "all in" means "all in" regardless of the situation, right? Pitchers pitch and players play and to heck with the consequences.

"All the games I managed in my career," Guillen said, "I think this is the one I'm not going to forget."

If Peavy wakes up in disabling pain today, so be it. That's the challenge that has to be stared down if the Sox are to win a division title.

It's clear by now that little is going to come easy for the Sox this season. What looked like a team that could win on talent alone is going to have to win on grit and guts.

Saturday was an indication the Sox have those attributes.

Of course, it wouldn't hurt to prove it by stacking a couple more victories to finally reach the .500 mark.

mimrem@dailyherald.com

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