White Sox beat Rays, close playoff deficit to 2-1

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CHICAGO (AP)—Thanks to John Danks and the White Sox, Chicago still has one team standing.

For the second time in less than a week, Danks pitched a strong game to save the season as the White Sox beat Tampa Bay 5-3 Sunday and trimmed the Rays’ lead in the opening-round AL playoff series to 2-1.

“If Danks loses in either game he pitches, we’re not here right now,” manager Ozzie Guillen said.

Game 4 in the best-of-five matchup is Monday in Chicago, with Gavin Floyd facing Tampa Bay’s Andy Sonnanstine.

“We’re going to put a lot of pressure on them,” Guillen added.

Less than 24 hours after the Cubs were swept out of the playoffs by the Dodgers, dashing Chicago’s hopes for a crosstown World Series, the White Sox avoided elimination before a black-shirted, white towel-waving crowd of 40,142 in their home park.

As for that other team in Chicago?

“I’m just trying to win one game and not get swept. I could care less about the Cubs,” Guillen said, adding he sent a text message to Cubs pitcher and fellow Venezuelan Carlos Zambrano, telling him to keep his head up.

Danks, who beat Minnesota 1-0 last Tuesday in the tiebreaker for the AL Central title, kept his poise and shut down the Rays for 6 2-3 innings.

“I was more nervous for Minnesota than I was this game,” Danks said. “Obviously, the same things were on the line. I was trying to stay within myself and A.J. (Pierzynski) did a good job of keeping me under control. It worked out all right.”

The 23-year-old lefty gave up five hits and a run before B.J. Upton hit a long, two-run homer with two outs in the seventh that made it 5-3.

After a single by Carlos Pena, Octavio Dotel threw a third strike past Evan Longoria, who said the loss did little to dampen the Rays’ confidence.

“I don’t think this clubhouse believes that we lost any momentum,” Longoria said. “It’s one loss. We’re still in the driver’s seat as far as I’m concerned.”

Bobby Jenks pitched the ninth, striking out Pena with a nasty curveball with a runner on for his fifth postseason save. He had four in 2005, including two in the World Series victory over Houston.

The Rays are only the second team in major league history—first in the AL — to make the postseason after having the worst record in the majors the previous season. Tampa Bay went from 96 losses to 97 victories and was trying to become the fifth team to sweep its first postseason series.

After the Rays won 6-4 and 6-2 at home, the White Sox were revived at U.S. Cellular Field, where they went 54-28 this season.

“To think you are going to waltz through this whole thing is not a good thought. It’s very unreasonable,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said. “It’s a bad assumption to think you are going to come in and beat up on them.”

Matt Garza, pitching on eight days’ rest, was popping his fastball in the mid-90s (mph) and trying to keep the homer-reliant White Sox off balance by changing speeds. Chicago caught up with the 24-year-old righty in the fourth.

Jim Thome opened with a double off the center-field fence, Paul Konerko walked and Ken Griffey Jr. hit a sharp single that loaded the bases.

Alexei Ramirez, who hit a record four grand slams as a rookie this season, hit a sacrifice fly to center for a 2-1 lead, and Konerko and Griffey alertly moved up a base. DeWayne Wise followed with a two-run, opposite-field double to left.

The base running from the veterans gave the White Sox a lift.

“To be honest, I thought Griffey cheated. I never thought he went back to the bag,” Guillen said. “That was a big, big play for us in that inning. Huge. It got everybody excited in the dugout, seeing those guys play the game the way it should be played.”

Wise, who hit a three-run homer in the opener at Tropicana Field, was designated for assignment by Chicago on May 31. But the White Sox brought him back from the minors in June and he’s received increased playing time since Carlos Quentin went down with a broken wrist Sept. 1.

Since his career began in 1997, the 31-year-old Wise has played in only 240 regular-season major league games and another 935 in the minors.

“It’s been unbelievable,” Wise said. “I couldn’t find a job, and to be where I am right now.”

Griffey had two singles. After he walked in the sixth, he was replaced by younger and faster Brian Anderson, who stole second and moved up on an infield out when Longoria made a nice play from behind third base on Ramirez’s grounder.

Wise grounded out, but Juan Uribe delivered another two-out single and the White Sox were up 5-1.

Garza lasted six innings, allowing seven hits and five runs.

Akinori Iwamura, who hit a two-run homer off Mark Buehrle in Game 2, gave the Rays a 1-0 lead in the second with an RBI infield single to first, beating Danks to the bag.

Chicago tied it in the third when Wise worked a leadoff walk, stole second and Pierzynski delivered a two-out RBI single to center.

“Guys are still playing cards up to 30 minutes before the game and laughing and having a good time,” Danks said about the way the White Sox have dealt with elimination games. They had to win three straight just to make the playoffs.

“Guys really just try to approach it like it’s a game in June. I think that helps take the pressure off of us a little bit,” he added.

Notes

Both C Dioner Navarro and Garza tried to shoo away a bothersome pigeon that landed between the mound and plate in the second inning. … White Sox reliever Matt Thornton went to tag Tampa Bay’s Willy Aybar in the eighth. After the two had a collision up the first-base line, they bumped fists to show there were no hard feelings. … Rain wiped out most of the Rays’ pregame batting practice about 90 minutes before the start. It kept raining and delayed the start of the game by 35 minutes. … Pena, who left Game 1 after two innings and missed Game 2 because of a scratched cornea, returned to the Rays’ lineup and had two hits.

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