It was only fitting that, in the biggest game of the long season, the White Sox' best all-around player came through again.
Written off as a bum in 2011, Alex Rios came back with a vengeance this year and has kept the Sox in first place with a consistent combination of solid hitting, defense and speed.
In Monday's 5-4 makeup victory over the Tigers at U.S. Cellular Field, Rios showed off yet another skill: toughness.
Needing a victory to open a 3-game lead over Detroit in the AL Central, the White Sox fell behind 3-0 in the third inning.
They scraped back to tie the game with 3 runs off Tigers starter Doug Fister in the fourth, and that set the stage for Rios -- along with some really good work from the Sox' bullpen.
"We took advantage of that situation and we ended up winning the game, and that's what we wanted to do," Rios said.
Here was the situation.
With the game still tied at 3-3 in the fifth inning, Adam Dunn led off with a single and Paul Konerko followed with a double, chasing Fister. Al Alburquerque came out of the Tigers' bullpen and walked Rios to load the bases.
A.J. Pierzynski followed with a hard line drive to right field, which Brennan Boesch managed to snare to keep all three Sox runners in place.
Dayan Viciedo grounded to shortstop Jhonny Peralta, setting up the inning-ending double play, but Rios had other ideas.
"That's a situation where every second baseman knows we're coming in hard," Rios said.
Peralta flipped the ball to Tigers second baseman Omar Infante for the forceout. But Rios took out Infante near the bag, forcing him to make a wild throw to first baseman Prince Fielder on the double-play try.
Not only was Infante charged with a throwing error, Dunn and Konerko both scored on the play and that was the difference in the game.
Rios said the slide was clean and he wasn't trying to injure Infante, but he did spike the second baseman.
"Yeah," Infante said when asked if he was spiked. "It's hard to throw once he hit me. I have no excuse. I have to make the throw. I feel bad because I've made a lot of errors knowing the team needed different."
Let's call this one an unforced error, considering Infante didn't have much of a chance to sidestep the Rios express train.
"Alex is a big guy who can run," Konerko said. "That's the worst kind when you are the second baseman. So that was a huge play and forced a bad throw and then obviously we took the lead on that. So that was big.
"But just hustle. Alex hustles. I have no idea what that feels like. I've never broken up a double play in my life, but it must feel good."
Said Dunn: "That was the game. It goes to show everybody is giving everything they have. How many times do you see a guy slide or pull up and this or that? Alex went in hard and essentially won us a game."
Rios has won the White Sox quite a few games this season, not that he has ever sought out any credit.
"It was a good play and we ended up winning the game," Rios said. "So it was big."
Actually, it was huge, and the Sox now have some breathing room at the top with 16 games to play in the regular season.
"Yeah, definitely," Dunn said when asked if Monday was the White Sox' biggest win of the season. "But only as big as we make it. If we go to Kansas City and not play well it's all for naught.
"Every one is big now. Tomorrow is the biggest game of the year. I'm not going to sit here and downplay it, but if we don't go to K.C. and Anaheim and win games it means nothing.
"If we're up 3 with two to go I'll be really happy."