That extra effort from Rios, coupled with four hitless innings turned in by Nate Jones (8-0), Donnie Veal, Brett Myers, Matt Thornton and Addison Reed (27th save), just might have dealt the Tigers (77-69) their deciding blow in the chase for the American League Central title. With 16 games remaining, the White Sox (80-66) hold a three-game lead and have a magic number of 14 to officially eliminate the Tigers.
With four straight victories, the White Sox are sliding their way to the postseason much like Rios did in Monday's makeup game of last Thursday's rainout.
"I just told him that might be the play of the year," said White Sox second baseman Gordon Beckham of Rios' slide.
"Every second baseman knows we're coming in hard. It was a clean slide, and we took advantage," Rios said. "We scored two runs on that play and ended up winning the game, so it was a big play."
"How many times do you see a guy slide or pull up and this or that?" Dunn said. "Alex went in hard and essentially won us a game."
Rios' slide was followed by White Sox bullpen domination. Delmon Young's run-scoring single with nobody out in the fifth was the last hit of the day for Detroit, with Jones recording three outs in relief of Jose Quintana to end the fifth and the Tigers going 12-up, 12-down on 48 pitches from the sixth through the ninth.
Robin Ventura played the ninth like a trained musician would work a finely-tuned instrument. The White Sox manager started with Myers, who retired pinch-hitter Quintin Berry on a ground ball to third baseman Kevin Youkilis. Left-hander Matt Thornton came in for left-handed-hitting pinch-hitter Andy Dirks and struck him out on three fastballs.
Then it was Reed, who jumped ahead 0-2 on Austin Jackson and induced a game-ending fly ball to Rios. White Sox relievers possess a 0.69 ERA over the last four games, covering 13 innings pitched.
"It wasn't just about the bullpen," said Jones, who made his 15th consecutive scoreless appearance. "It was about the guys making plays behind us and the offense kicking in when it needed to. It's about Quintana. He kept it close enough to where we could do our job. It's all about the team."
In Monday's victory, the White Sox found much greater success against Doug Fister (9-9) than the two-hitter he threw at them over seven innings last Tuesday. Fister was staked to a 3-0 lead in the third, and even pitched out of a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the bottom of the frame by striking out Youkilis and Dunn.
Fister wasn't so fortunate in the fourth, hitting Beckham with a 1-0 pitch to force home a run with two outs. Dewayne Wise then connected on a 3-1 fastball to single home two more to tie the game.
Detroit regained the lead in the fifth on Miguel Cabrera's leadoff double off Quintana, Prince Fielder's infield single and Young's single. On Fielder's grounder to Dunn at first, Quintana was late getting off the mound but still appeared to beat Fielder to the bag. First-base umpire Mike Muchlinski disagreed.
Despite holding these two early advantages, the Tigers missed on three prime chances to take total control.
Jhonny Peralta hit into a double play with runners on first and second and nobody out in the second, and Brennan Boesch followed with a swinging strikeout against Quintana. Boesch struck out swinging on a 3-2 pitch to strand the bases loaded in the third, before Peralta hit into a second rally-killing double play and Boesch grounded out to shortstop Alexei Ramirez to end the fifth.
A Wise baserunning mistake in the eighth, where he tagged up and was thrown out at third by Avisail Garcia for the final out before Beckham could score on Dunn's fly ball to left, cost the White Sox an insurance run. Fortunately, it didn't change the outcome or the look of the standings.
Basically, the AL Central hasn't changed since last Monday night, when the White Sox, who are 2-9 in their last 11 games against the Tigers, took the series opener from Detroit and held a three-game advantage. The only difference is taking six more games off the schedule.
Monday's outcome marked the Tigers' 10th straight one-loss. The game certainly featured major playoff ramifications, but no postgame concessions.
"That doesn't bother me at all," said Tigers manager Jim Leyland of the deficit. "It's right there in front of us. There's no secrets. There's plenty of time, but you have to win games."
"Tomorrow becomes a whole different game and different team," said Ventura, whose team returns to its nine-game road trip in Kansas City. "Be sure you worry about yourself and not worry about anything else. There's nothing you can do about [the Tigers]."