The Chicago White Sox took command of the AL Central by winning a makeup game over their closest challenger in their final meeting of the season.
They know the race is far from over, however, especially with a series looming against a team that regularly gives them trouble.
The White Sox hope to carry some momentum from an emotional win to Tuesday night's opener against a Kansas City Royals team that has won seven of the last eight matchups.
Monday's makeup from last Thursday's rainout with Detroit had huge playoff implications, as the Tigers could have pulled within one game of the White Sox (80-66) with a win. Chicago was down 4-3 in the bottom of the fifth, but Alex Rios ' hard slide to break up a double play caused Omar Infante to throw wildly, allowing the tying and go-ahead runs to score in a 5-4 victory.
The win moved the White Sox three ahead of the Tigers with 16 games remaining."There is still a lot of time left for both teams. ... We just got to continue to grind and hope that what we do every day, day in and day out, is enough," second baseman Gordon Beckham said. "This is probably still going to go down to the wire."
Based on the way things have gone against the Royals (66-80), it's entirely possible Chicago's lead could disappear by the time it leaves Kansas City on Thursday.
Since Aug. 7, the White Sox are 1-7 versus Kansas City, and have lost all three games at Kauffman Stadium. The Royals, who lost 4-3 to the Angels on Sunday, are 14-16 against everyone else over that stretch.
The White Sox have been able to take Royals pitchers deep in the last eight meetings, combining for 10 homers, but have only had four runners on base on those hits. They've totaled 22 runs - 2.8 per game.
Chicago has hit one homer in 12 innings against Luke Hochevar (8-13, 5.46 ERA), who has given the White Sox trouble despite his overall struggles.
Hochevar has the majors' third-highest ERA and owns a 9.00 ERA in his last four starts. Despite giving up five runs in five innings against Minnesota on Wednesday, he earned his first win since July 31 in the 10-5 final.
"He (hadn't) won a game in his last seven starts and I wanted to get him over that hump," manager Ned Yost told the Royals' official website. "Sometimes, you've got to let 'em work through some things."
Although it's been a struggle for the right-hander, he is 1-0 with a 2.25 ERA in his two starts against the White Sox this season. He has done a good job of keeping many of Chicago's top hitters in check, as Paul Konerko is batting .222 with two homers in 27 career at-bats, Rios .190 in 21 at-bats and A.J. Pierzynski .105 in 19.
The White Sox counter with Gavin Floyd (9-10, 4.59), who allowed three runs and four hits with seven strikeouts in 4 2-3 innings of Wednesday's 8-6 loss to the Tigers. That was his first outing since Aug. 26, after a stint on the disabled list with a right elbow strain.
One of Floyd's best outings of the season came in his lone start against the Royals on May 11, when he allowed five hits in 7 2-3 innings of a 5-0 home win.
He hasn't enjoyed as much success pitching at Kauffman, going 1-4 with a 6.38 ERA in seven starts there.
Kansas City's Billy Butler is batting .316 with three homers and 10 RBIs against Chicago this year, but is 1 for 10 against Floyd since the start of last season.
|Alejandro De Aza||2||.000||0||0||0||1||1||.333||.333||.000|
|Chicago White Sox|
|September 07, 2012||Adam Dunn||Day-to-Day||Strained right oblique|
|August 27, 2012||Gavin Floyd||15-Day DL||Right elbow flexor strain|
|August 27, 2012||Gavin Floyd||15-Day DL||Right elbow flexor strain|
|August 25, 2012||Dayan Viciedo||Day-to-Day||Right shoulder soreness|
|August 19, 2012||Kevin Youkilis||Day-to-Day||Sore right knee|
|August 18, 2012||Alejandro De Aza||15-Day DL||Bruised left ribcage|
|Kansas City Royals|
|September 14, 2012||Lorenzo Cain||Day-to-Day||Left game - Strained right hamstring|
|August 18, 2012||Chris Getz||15-Day DL||Broken left thumb|
|August 17, 2012||Chris Getz||Day-to-Day||Left game - fractured left thumb|
|July 28, 2012||Mike Moustakas||Day-to-Day||Left game - sprained right knee|
|July 05, 2012||Luke Hochevar||Day-to-Day||Sprained right ankle|
|June 18, 2012||Chris Getz||15-Day DL||Lateral strain in lower left leg|
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) -- Gavin Floyd is healthy again and hoping to help the Chicago White Sox get back to the playoffs.
Floyd pitched seven crisp innings, Alex Rios hit a tiebreaking homer in the seventh and the White Sox beat the Kansas City Royals 3-2 on Tuesday night for their fifth consecutive win.
Alejandro De Aza and Gordon Beckham also went deep for AL Central-leading Chicago, which maintained a three-game advantage over Detroit and improved to 6-10 against the Royals. Chicago had lost seven of eight against Kansas City.
Floyd (10-10) gave up two runs in the first inning and nothing after that. He allowed five hits, walked one and struck out three, throwing 52 strikes in 78 pitches.
The 6-foot-6 right-hander was making his second start since coming off the disabled list after being sidelined with an elbow flexor strain. He also missed time earlier in the year with right elbow tendinitis.
"I felt good out there," he said. "I just wanted to make as few pitches out there and let the defense work. It's great especially after sitting for 15 days and more than that before. It's nice to get back out there and just be part of the team and contribute."
Floyd reached double-figures in victories for the fifth consecutive season as the White Sox (81-66) moved 15 games above .500.
"We're no way content," Floyd said. "We're content in the place that we are, but there's still a lot of baseball left. It's fun to be in the position we're at. We've just got to keep pushing."
De Aza drove Luke Hochevar 's second pitch over the wall in right for his eighth homer of the season. De Aza had been slumping, hitless in his previous nine at-bat and 2-for-21 in his previous five games.
First-year manager Robin Ventura did not play the outfielder in the past two games, but thought the timing was right to get him back in the lineup.
"I know what I'm doing," Ventura joked. "He looked out of synch in Minnesota."
Hochevar (8-14), who is 1-5 in his last nine starts, allowed just one single the next four innings before Beckham led off the sixth with his 16th home run. Beckham is hitting .333 with four home runs and 14 RBIs in his past 17 games.
"He's in a better position to hit," Ventura said. "He's more confident. He's getting his hands back and getting through it. He's hit some homers, but for me he's keeping the ball on a line a little bit more than he has all year long."
The White Sox upped their home run total to 198, which ranks second in the majors. They have 13 homers in their past 14 road games.
"I'm not going to be critical how we get them," Ventura said. "This is a big ballpark. You've got to find a way to get some runs other than just sitting back and waiting for a home run. I'm glad we hit them, but this isn't a ballpark you can sit back and do that."
Rios' 24th homer came with one out in the seventh and matched his career high. Rios also played a key role in Chicago's 5-4 win over Detroit on Monday when he broke up a potential double play with a hard slide that led to an errant throw that allowed the tying and go-ahead runs to score.
Hochevar allowed seven hits in seven innings. He struck out four and walked none.
Kansas City got off to a fast start when Billy Butler hit a two-run single in the first inning to give him a career-high 97 RBIs.
The Royals did not have a baserunner after Jeff Francoeur 's fourth-inning double.
"He (Floyd) settled in really nice," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "They retired our last 16 batters. We had trouble centering anything up against them."
Matt Thornton retired all four batters he faced. Addison Reed got the final two outs for his 28th save in 32 chances.
NOTES: Royals RHP Luis Mendoza has strep throat and will miss his scheduled Wednesday start against the White Sox. LHP Bruce Chen will be moved up a day, while RHP Jeremy Guthrie will start Thursday. ... The White Sox announced LHP Francisco Liriano will start the Thursday series finale against the Royals. ... Royals LF Alex Gordon threw out A.J. Pierzynski trying to stretch a single into a double in the fifth inning. Kansas City leads the majors with 44 outfield assists.