The Chicago White Sox finally came up with a win when they needed one on Sunday to stay alive in the race for the AL Central title.
If they want to actually win the division, they’ll need another on Monday. And one more on Tuesday.
The White Sox will try to force a one-game playoff for the Central crown when they play a make-up game at U.S. Cellular Field on Monday against the Detroit Tigers and Freddy Garcia, a former star in the playoffs for Chicago.
At the end of a disappointing season, the Tigers (74-87) were likely hoping not to have to make one more trip to Chicago to make up the remaining game from a rain-soaked series Sept. 12-14, and they wouldn’t have if the White Sox and Minnesota Twins had been separated by more than one-half game after Sunday’s play.
But Chicago (87-74) snapped a five-game losing streak with a 5-1 win over Cleveland on Sunday, remaining one-half game behind Minnesota after the Twins beat Kansas City 6-0.
The White Sox had been reeling after coughing up a 2 1/2-game lead in the division in just a few days. They were swept by the Twins at the Metrodome last week, then dropped the first two games against the Indians over the weekend.
If the White Sox win again on Monday, they would host Minnesota on Tuesday in a one-game playoff, the site having been determined by a coin flip earlier this month. If not, the Twins can celebrate and prepare to face Tampa Bay in an AL division series starting Thursday.
“It’s up to them. It’s all on their shoulders now,” Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire said. “I don’t have to make a pitching move. I don’t have to pinch hit anybody tomorrow. It’s all on (White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen’s) butt, so go get ‘em Ozzie and let’s see what happens.”
Guillen’s first move will be handing the ball to Gavin Floyd (16-8, 3.91 ERA), also on short rest.
Floyd last pitched in the finale of last week’s series against the Twins, allowing 11 hits and four runs in 5 2-3 innings. He was in line for a victory until the bullpen blew a two-run lead in the eighth, and the White Sox eventually lost 7-6 in 10 innings.
The right-hander is 2-0 with a 4.24 ERA against the Tigers this season, but he struggled at home against them in the most recent outing on Aug. 5, giving up five runs in four-plus innings of a game Chicago eventually won 10-8 in 14 innings.
On the other side, an old White Sox hero will have a chance to help eliminate his former team.
Garcia (1-1, 4.50) won all three of his starts for Chicago in the 2005 postseason, throwing seven stellar innings in the clinching game of the World Series against Houston, a 1-0 White Sox victory. He hasn’t faced Chicago since.
“I got plenty text messages from him already,” Guillen said. “He says he can’t wait to beat us.”
The right-hander was a free agent until August after shoulder surgery, but the Tigers signed him to a minor-league deal and he didn’t make his first start for Detroit until Sept. 17.
That day, he beat Texas after allowing two hits and an unearned run in five innings of a 17-4 win, but he lost to Kansas City on Tuesday, giving up five runs and three home runs in five innings of a 5-0 defeat.
The White Sox have gone 11-6 against Detroit this season, winning six of the last eight overall, as well as six of the previous eight home games.
The Tigers’ struggles this season cost pitching coach Chuck Hernandez and bullpen coach Jeff Jones their jobs on Sunday, when the team blew a five-run lead and lost 8-7 in 11 innings to Tampa Bay. Detroit needs to beat the White Sox to avoid finishing alone in last place in the Central, as it trails Kansas City by one-half game.
“I’m sure the last thing those guys want to do is get on a plane, but they are professionals and if I was them and had to get on a plane and come here, I’m going to make it hurt,” Konerko said of the Tigers. “We better be ready to play.”
The extra game gives Detroit’s Gary Sheffield one more chance to reach 500 home runs this season. He hit his 499th on Friday.