DETROIT -- Alex Rios played Game No. 1,270 without reaching the postseason during Friday's series-opening, 7-4 victory for the Tigers over the White Sox.
The White Sox right fielder ranks fifth in that dubious category among active players, with teammate Adam Dunn sitting at the top with 1,700 games without the playoffs. Needless to say, this final month of the 2012 campaign will be an especially exciting one for the 31-year-old veteran and certainly not just because of the impressive individual turnaround he has produced in comparison to 2011.
"Well, this whole season has been so much fun," said Rios, who is hitting .300 with 20 homers, 75 RBIs, 31 doubles and 20 stolen bases. "It feels good to come to the field with a purpose. We have to win and we have to have that winning mentality every night.
"I personally believe that you get more into the game when you are in this situation because it's more intense. Every win counts and every loss hurts. It's good to play at that intensity level."
Individual awards currently are being discussed along with the teams that will survive this final 30-game run. Chris Sale, who starts Sunday night at Comerica Park, has been mentioned as an American League Cy Young candidate, while Dunn, Rios and Friday starter Jake Peavy frequently get put at the top of the list for Comeback Player of the Year.
Rios' contributions both at the plate and back in his familiar environs of right field have placed his name in as a remote Most Valuable Player candidate, along with teammate A.J. Pierzynski, trailing front-runners Mike Trout, Miguel Cabrera, Josh Hamilton and Derek Jeter. Much like the attitude fostered by the White Sox as a team since the start of the season, the only trophy Rios wants to hold is the one representing a World Series title.
"None of us are focusing on statistics right now," Rios said. "We have our goals set. We are here to win games. We are here to play as a team and do what we have to do to play late in October.
"That's a good thing that none of us have been thinking about statistics. You don't see any selfishness going on and that's one of the things that gets us here to the point that we are a legitimate team to go to the playoffs."