CHICAGO – White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko pledged he would resist the urge to peek at the scoreboard.
But as the clock struck 9:40 p.m. Friday at U.S. Cellular Field, the Sox’s season had new life – even if they all didn’t realize it at that moment – and Konerko broke his promise once he heard the roar from the 25,264 fans. A quick glance at the scoreboard in between outs during the eighth inning revealed exactly what Konerko and the Sox hoped: Twins 4, Tigers 2.
Coupled with the Sox’s 3-1 win against the Tampa Bay Rays, they moved within a game of Detroit with five games left.
“I heard [the fans] once earlier in the game and I figured Minnesota did something good,” Konerko said. “I didn’t know what it meant because I wouldn’t look. And the last one, I knew it was a win for Minnesota. So, at that point I looked up and saw that. It was a good night. Finally we had a good night where we put together a good game and won and picked up a game here.”
Twenty-four hours ago, the Sox’s clubhouse was anything but optimistic. Sure,
they said they wouldn’t quit and talked a good game, but the Sox realized they dug themselves a hole by dropping eight of their last nine games. The odds weren’t in their favor. Although the situation still isn’t ideal, considering they need Detroit to lose at least once in the final five days, Friday’s win, though not pretty, reenergized a ballclub that was ready to pack up and prepare for the offseason.
“It’s mentally exhausting,” outfielder Alex Rios said. “It’s like we’re playing in the playoffs right now and it’s been like this for quite a bit. But you know what, it might be good because we’re getting used to it. If we make it, and I think we’re going to make it, it’s going to help us because our minds are going to be in that mindset. It’s going to be good.”
As has been familiar during a rough one and a half weeks, the Sox (83-74) found themselves trailing early. Gavin Floyd (11-11) put the Sox behind after just three batters on Ben Zobrist’s solo homer in the first. That’s all the Rays (86-71) would manage, however. Floyd, who lasted five innings, and five relievers combined to hold Tampa Bay to three hits, snapping the Rays’ eight game-winning streak.
The offense squeaked out enough clutch hits, led by Kevin Youkilis and Alexei Ramirez’s RBI singles and Rios’ go-ahead solo homer, to get the win. Rios, who set career highs in homers (25) and RBIs (89), finished 3 for 4.
There were plenty of smiles in a relaxed clubhouse after the win. The Sox understand, though, that Friday’s win won’t mean much if they can’t build on that success today when ace Chris Sale takes the mound.
“It definitely does [feel different],” Ramirez said through a translator. “You can’t hide that because it gives everybody more energy and more life. Now we’re just a little bit closer and now all it comes down to is winning the rest of the games and go from there.”