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Floyd looks to reprise must-win role

Floyd looks to reprise must-win role

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CHICAGO -- Gavin Floyd was a big part of the White Sox run of three wins over three teams in three days to get into the playoffs. Now the Sox need him again to keep their postseason hopes alive.

The last time Floyd took the mound, his six innings with one earned run allowed helped keep the White Sox in a low-scoring battle long enough for Alexei Ramirez's grand slam to sink Detroit for good and send Chicago to its one-game playoff against Minnesota. He can't erase the Rays in Game 4 of this American League Division Series on Monday, but he can help put them in the same must-win situation as the White Sox.

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"We put ourselves in a tough situation both times," Floyd said Sunday. "So we've done it before and are definitely capable of doing it again. I think we have the team to do it."

A week ago, it was Chicago's young pitching that carried the White Sox through their must-win stretch. John Danks started the Sox on what they hope is a repeat performance with his solid outing Sunday. Now comes Floyd, the 25-year-old right-hander who will try to reprise his role in what should be a pressure-packed contest.

"The reason why we are where we are right now is because of the two kids stepping up, Floyd and Danks," manager Ozzie Guillen said. "If those kids do not step it up the way they did, I'd be playing golf right now, or I'd be back in Caracas.

"Those two kids were the key for us. They pitched in really tough games and they handled it real well. They did more than we thought they were going to do."

But then, they've been outperforming expectations for much of the season -- certainly the expectations of the rest of the league.

Floyd, 1-5 with a 5.27 ERA in 2007, is a major reason the White Sox were able to fill out their rotation in 2008 in the first place following the trade of Jon Garland to the Angels. His 17 victories more than doubled his career total over his past four big league seasons, and his 206 1/3 innings were nearly triple his total from last year.

Game 4: Just the facts
U.S. Cellular Field
Rays starter: RHP Andy Sonnanstine
2008: 13-9, 4.38 ERA
2008 on road: 6-5, 4.35 ERA
2008 vs. White Sox: 1-0, 3.00 ERA (3 appearances)
Career vs. White Sox: 1-0, 2.96 ERA (4 appearances)
Career postseason: First appearance
White Sox starter: RHP Gavin Floyd
2008: 17-8, 3.84 ERA
2008 at home: 10-3, 3.55 ERA
2008 vs. Rays: First appearance
Career vs. Rays: First appearance
Career postseason: First appearance
Rays lead series, 2-1. The White Sox are the 12th team to win Game 3 after losing the first two games of a Division Series.
Game 1: Rays 6, White Sox 4
Game 2: Rays 6, White Sox 2
Game 3: White Sox 5, Rays 3
Did You Know? The White Sox went just 9-31 in regular-season games this year when they didn't hit a home run. All their RBIs in Sunday's victory came on singles and sacrifice flies.

Much of the strength in his season totals came from the season's first three months of the season. He headed into his final start before the All-Star break with a 10-4 record and 3.22 ERA, and even after some July struggles, he was 15-6 at the end of August amid a nine-game unbeaten streak.

Back-to-back tough outings at Kansas City on Sept. 20 and at Minnesota five days later fed into the question of whether the breakout right-hander was running low on energy down the stretch. His 118-pitch effort against the Tigers on three days' rest provided an answer.

An aggressive Tigers lineup looking to swing early and often against Floyd swung and missed 14 times, helping him rack up eight strikeouts and seven groundouts.

"I think the only time I kind of was a little weak was my first [start on] three days' [rest]," Floyd said, referring to his Sept. 20 loss to the Royals. "But I learned from that and kind of learned from what happened the first three days to prepare myself for the next three days.

"But I feel real strong. [I've] been working out real hard and just trying to maintain my strength and, you know, stretch and everything. So everything feels good."

His pitch count in that Tigers game escalated in a hurry thanks to his final two innings, accounting for 55 pitches. Eleven of those pitches came to Detroit leadoff man Curtis Granderson, the last of them providing a glimpse of what made him so effective.

One two-strike pitch after another, Granderson managed to fight off pitches for foul balls and extend the at-bat. Once he ran the count full, however, Floyd went for the breaking ball and spotted it beautifully on the outside corner, forcing a late swing and miss from Granderson to erase a potential sacrifice fly opportunity.

"Every other pitch he threw over the course of that at-bat were hard sliders and cutters in," Granderson said afterwards. "It was a matter of which [pitch] was it going to be -- the slider, the cutter, the fastball, the curve. It happened to be the curve after all the other pitches in the at-bat."

That's the guessing game that the aggressive-hitting Rays face if Floyd can spot his pitch nearly as well this time around. Granderson has faced Floyd every year since 2003, back in the Minor Leagues. The Rays have never faced Floyd, though they've sure scouted him. His one weakness was three stolen bases allowed against a Tigers club that ranked last in the American League in steals for the year.

He'll have had six days of rest heading into this outing thanks to Guillen's decision to flip Floyd and Danks in the rotation order, forcing the Rays to see left-handers in Games 2 and 3. Monday marks a return to the right-hander, playing more to Tampa Bay's strength.

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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{"content":["division_series" ] }
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