Rios' two homers secure series victory

Rios' two homers secure series victory

Rios' two homers secure series victory
CHICAGO -- The phrases "taking it one day at a time" and "grinding it out" sit near the top of the unofficial Major League Baseball cliché list.

They hold up especially strong during these final days of the regular season, when every inning matters during races toward the postseason.

Cliché or not, those sayings have become words of wisdom for the American League Central-leading White Sox (74-62). Take these past six games as an example.

With a 6-2 victory over the Twins on Wednesday afternoon at U.S. Cellular Field, the White Sox claimed the series win against Ron Gardenhire's crew. It was a win that kept the White Sox in sole possession of first place for yet another day and put the pressure on Detroit to avoid a home sweep at the hands of the struggling Indians and stay one game behind.

It was just three days ago when the Tigers seemed to gain all the momentum in the division via a weekend sweep of the White Sox, and it was about 12 hours ago when the Twins (56-81) hung an 18-spot on the South Siders. Putting those games quickly in the rearview mirror allowed the White Sox to stay where they are, looking down at the rest of the division.

"We can't promise any results, but we've said it over and over and I'll stand by this comment," said White Sox starter Jake Peavy, who reached 10 wins for the first time since 2008 with a victory in Wednesday's finale. "It's because of our manager and our leadership, this team will not get down and I don't care how many we lose in a row, how tough of a defeat. I don't care how it happens.

"If we go out and get beat or make careless mistakes, we will come back and wipe the slate clean the next day and pull for each other and do all we can do that day to find a way to win. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn't. This team has that mentality. We will not waiver from it. We have enough veteran guys who bought into it."

Wednesday's victory was courtesy of Peavy and right fielder Alex Rios.

Peavy (10-10) allowed just one run over six innings, striking out three and walking one in 107 pitches. His effort ended a personal five-start streak without a victory, dating back to a winning decision over the Twins on Aug. 1 at Target Field.

In fact, Peavy's last three victories all have come against the Twins. That individual result didn't factor into the veteran's decision to count this day as a success.

"For me, personally, to get a win, that means absolutely nothing," Peavy said. "I can honestly tell you that. But for us to win a series like we did today and put the pressure on Detroit to have to win tonight to stay one back, it was big for us to win the series. We have to win series from here on out."

"Just outstanding, to be able to keep them at bay after what they did to us yesterday," said reliever Matt Thornton, who pitched a scoreless eighth, of Peavy. "One run over six innings and then the bullpen came and did the job. It's a good win for us."

Rios, meanwhile, provided more offense with one swing of the bat than the White Sox did as a unit in four of Peavy's starts during the month of August. His second career grand slam came in the first inning against P.J. Walters (2-3), following Dewayne Wise's single, walks to Kevin Youkilis and Adam Dunn and Paul Konerko's popout to second.

Walters' afternoon then came to a close when Rios connected on his second homer in the sixth, with Konerko on first after drawing a walk. Rios set a career high with the six RBIs and with 82 on the season is six short of matching his single-season best, set in 2010. He also recorded his sixth career multihomer game and third of 2012.

"Take Rios out of the game and we're still playing," Gardenhire said. "But you can't take him out of the game because he took us out of it."

"I just got a few good pitches and I connected well, so that's all you can hope," Rios aid. "Hit the ball hard and see what happens."

Minnesota scored its first run in the third on Eduardo Escobar's sacrifice fly, marking his fourth RBI against the team that traded him for Francisco Liriano. But Peavy stranded runners at first and third when Joe Mauer lined out hard to Rios on a 3-1 pitch.

Two bloop hits in the fourth from Ryan Doumit and Chris Parmelee put runners on first and third with one out. But a fired up Peavy retired Trevor Plouffe on an infield popup to Youkilis and Matt Carson on a grounder to shortstop Alexei Ramirez to keep the inning scoreless.

Peavy's performance was a needed effort for the White Sox rotation, as the starters had produced a 7.47 ERA over the previous eight games. But as the White Sox have stressed from the start of Spring Training, the past has no direct effect on the present.

Everything centers on the game at hand. When the White Sox take the field Friday against the Royals, they are guaranteed to be a first-place team thanks to that attitude.

"You come back out and get four in the first, so it was a big boost, and then Jake pitched great," White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. "He's the kind of guy you want after a game like that. He came out and battled, and Rios hits a couple homers. Things look all right again."

Scott Merkin is a reporter for Read his blog, Merk's Works, and follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.