With so much riding on every game and even every pitch, Alex Rios acknowledged it’s just a little exhausting. He can breathe a little easier after this.Rios hit his career-high 25th homer and the White Sox gave their playoff hopes a major boost, beating Tampa Bay 3-1 on Friday night to end the Rays’ eight-game winning streak.The White Sox got a bit of a reprieve after dropping eight of nine and moved within one game of first-place Detroit in the AL Central. The Tigers lost to Minnesota 4-2.The Rays dropped three games behind Oakland for the second AL wild-card spot when the Athletics beat Seattle 8-2.Both the White Sox and Tigers have five games remaining.
“It’s a little bit mentally exhausting,” Rios said. “It’s like we’re playing in the playoffs right now, and it’s been like this for quite a bit now. But you know what? It might be good, because we’re getting used to it.”
For Tampa Bay, it was simply a difficult night. Then again, maybe the Rays were due for one.
“I thought we had one mulligan left. There it was,” manager Joe Maddon said.
The White Sox won thanks to a big effort at the plate by Rios and a strong showing by the bullpen after Gavin Floyd (11-11) struggled with his control.Rios’ drive leading off the fourth against Jeremy Hellickson (9-11) broke a 1-all tie. Rios added to the lead when he started the sixth with a double off the left-field wall and came around on Alexei Ramirez’s two-out single.The crowd cheered that, but the biggest roar came later, when the Tigers-Twins game ended.Manager Robin Ventura joked he thought the Bears had scored, the way the fans were cheering, because that tends to happen at U.S. Cellular Field during football season. If the White Sox weren’t watching the out-of-town scores, they couldn’t help but take a look after that.
“I thought it was amazing how many fans at once were looking at that scoreboard because you would have thought that we had just hit a home run,” Gordon Beckham said. “That’s pretty amazing to me that all those fans were staring at that scoreboard waiting for it to be thrown again.”
Floyd gave up two hits over five innings, including a solo homer to Ben Zobrist in the first, but struggled in a big way with his control. He walked five, and of the 105 pitches he threw, only 57 were strikes.Even so, he got his first win at home since July 23.Jesse Crain threw 2 2/3 scoreless innings, matching his longest outing since April 28, 2010, against Detroit. He left after hitting Evan Longoria with a two-out pitch in the eighth.Matt Thornton walked pinch-hitter Sean Rodriguez before Nate Jones retired Jeff Keppinger on a groundout to end the threat.Donnie Veal struck out pinch-hitter Ben Francisco leading off the ninth before Addison Reed retired the final two batters for his 29th save in 33 chances. Hellickson allowed three runs and nine hits in 5 2/3 innings for Tampa Bay.
“Until the numbers say you’re eliminated, you’re out of it, anything’s possible,” the Rays’ Matt Joyce said.
The White Sox were in first place for 117 days this season. Now, they’re simply trying to stay in contention and time is running out.Floyd was far from dominant in his fourth start back after spending time on the disabled list because of a right elbow flexor strain. Things certainly weren’t looking good for him when Zobrist drove the first pitch he saw out to right for his 19th homer with two outs in the first, but the Rays came away empty in the second and third even though they had two runners on in each inning.The White Sox tied it in the third when Beckham led off with a single, advanced to second on Hellickson’s errant pickoff throw and came around on Kevin Youkilis’ single. Then, in the fourth, Rios broke the tie with a leadoff drive that gave him a personal-best 89 RBIs to go with his career high in homers.
“We had a pretty good game offensively, and hopefully, it gets everybody going again like we were doing earlier in the season,” Rios said. “Let’s see what happens.”
NOTES—Rays C Jose Molina (right quad strain) was out of the starting lineup for a third straight game….Rios made a nice running catch on Joyce’s drive to the right-field corner with two runners on in the second….Ventura said Jose Quintana will start Sunday’s series finale, with ace David Price pitching for the Rays. Chris Sale starts Saturday for the Sox, and Matt Moore goes for Tampa Bay…..Ventura on the Rays’ recent surge: “You’re jealous. I can tell you that right now. We’d like to have that, but again, they’ve earned it.”