Look who’s back in the playoff race — the White Sox.
That can change if they lose Saturday and the Tigers win, but the Sox aren’t looking that far ahead.
For now, all they care about is Friday night’s 3-1 victory over Tampa Bay in front of 25,264 at U.S. Cellular Field. Coupled with Detroit’s 4-2 loss to the Twins in Minnesota, the White Sox are just 1 game out with five to play.
Yes, they still are feeling the pressure, and the stress level is high, but after another productive game Alex Rios said scratching and clawing day after day is likely to pay off in October.
“It’s mentally exhausting,” Rios said after going 3-for-4 and snapping a 1-1 tie with a solo home run in the fourth inning. “It’s like we’re playing in the playoffs right now, and it’s been like this for quite a bit. But you know what, it might be good because we’re getting used to it.
“If we make it (to the playoffs) — and I think we’re going to make it — it’s going to help us because out minds are going to be in that mindset. It’s going to be good.”
While losing eight of nine and dropping out of first place in the AL Central, the Sox played flat-out bad baseball.
They weren’t great in Friday’s win over the Rays, but the White Sox aren’t really worried about style points at this critical juncture of the season.
“I wouldn’t say everything clicked,” Paul Konerko said. “I would say that the difference between this game and probably seven or eight out of the last 10 was just a couple of balls found some holes. Everything else, we haven’t been playing that bad.”
Tampa Bay took an early lead when Ben Zobrist homered off Sox starter Gavin Floyd with two outs in the first inning. Floyd was what you might call effectively wild all night, allowing 2 hits and 5 walks in 5 innings.
The bullpen shut down the Rays the rest of the way, with Jesse Crain doing the heavy lifting and delivering 22⁄3 solid innings.
After Rios hit his 25th home run, a career high, Alexei Ramirez singled with two outs in the sixth inning to bring home Rios with a big insurance run.
“It’s good,” said Rios, who also reached a career high with 89 RBI. “We’re just 1 game behind and anything can happen.
“We just have to play the same way we played tonight and do the little things that we did. Our pitching was there and offensively we did a pretty good job. That’s what we’ve got to do.”
Matt Moore opposes Chris Sale on Saturday, and the Rays’ left-handed starter is 0-3 with 7.31 ERA in 4 September starts. Sale, on the other hand, is 8-0 with a 1.45 ERA in his last 10 home starts.
All of the sudden, the White Sox appear to be in pretty good shape again.
“I think we’re encouraged,” Floyd said. “We’re pumped up and we’re ready to go and we’ll try to win tomorrow and see what happens.”
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