Alex Rios went barrelling into second base with a hard slide that teammate Gordon Beckham said might be the biggest play of the season for the White Sox as they try to win the AL Central.
Rios was trying to break up a double play and when he went into Detroit second baseman Omar Infante, it caused an errant throw that allowed the tying and go-ahead runs to score Monday as the White Sox beat the Tigers 5-4 and went up three games in division.
"That's a situation where every second baseman knows we're coming in hard. And it was a clean slide, and we took advantage of that," Rios said. "We scored two runs on that play and ended up winning the game, so it was a big play."
The game had been postponed by rain last Thursday and Monday's makeup was the final meeting of the season between the two front runners in the division.
Detroit won the season series 12-6 and captured nine of the final 11 games between the teams, including two of three last week before the four-game series finale was postponed.
Each team has 16 games remaining. Chicago heads to Kansas City and Anaheim to finish out this week while Detroit goes home to face the Athletics and Twins.
"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," Beckham said. "This is probably still going to go down to the wire."
Rios' fifth-inning slide was the talk of the locker room after the game as was Chicago's bullpen that pitched five scoreless innings after starter Jose Quintana struggled.
"That was a tough play for that second baseman to make that turn. I've been there before," Beckham said. "It's everything you can do to just get it off. What a great slide and I just told him [Rios] that might be the play of the year so far. Pretty special."
When Dayan Viciedo hit a one-out grounder to short, the Tigers tried to turn the inning-ending double play, but Rios' slide forced an errant throw from Infante that got by Prince Fielder as two runs scored, giving Chicago the lead. And then the bullpen held it.
"Rios got down there pretty good, we just didn't get the turn. Maybe if [Infante] could have come across the bag more," Detroit manager Jim Leyland said. "It was a tough double play. Rios got down there. When he hit it, I thought it was a sure double play."
Infante, who also made a costly error last Monday that helped the White Sox to a win, said he was spiked on the play by Rios, but offered no excuses.
"It's hard to do. It's hard to throw once he hit me," Infante said. "I have to make the throw. I feel bad because I've made a lot of errors knowing the team needed different."
Nate Jones (8-0) pitched 2 2-3 innings of one-hit relief and the White Sox won their fourth straight. Addison Reed, the last of three relievers in the ninth, got the final out for his 27th save in 31 chances.
Trailing 4-3, the White Sox loaded the bases for a third straight inning in the fifth, driving out Detroit starter Doug Fister (9-9).
Delmon Young drove in three runs for the Tigers with a pair of singles, but Detroit couldn't hold on to an early 3-0 lead. Tigers pitchers walked six and hit two batters.
Chicago loaded the bases again in the eighth and was on the verge of adding an insurance run when Adam Dunn hit a fly ball to left with one out. But before Beckham could cross the plate, Dewayne Wise was thrown out trying to go from second to third — a double play that ended the inning. It ended up not costing the White Sox.
"I made a mistake there, I'll be the first guy to tell you. I almost blew it right there," Wise said. "I've been playing this game too long to make a mistake like. I'm just thankful that we pulled it out."
Neither starter got out of the fifth. Quintana, who beat the Tigers a week ago in his previous start, gave up seven hits and four runs in four. And Fister, who defeated the White Sox last Tuesday, gave up eight hits and five runs — four — earned, also in four innings.
Avisail Garcia, Gerald Laird and Austin Jackson hit consecutive singles to open the third for a 1-0 Detroit lead. After a sacrifice, Quintana intentionally walked Miguel Cabrera to load the bases. He then struck out Prince Fielder, but Young hit a two-run single to put the Tigers up three.
The White Sox had three singles off Fister to load the bases in the bottom half but the 6-foot-8 right-hander struck out Kevin Youkilis and Dunn to end the threat. Chicago tied it in the fourth when Beckham was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded and Wise had a two-run single.
Cabrera led off the fifth with a double and Fielder was ruled safe at first when Dunn fielded his grounder and flipped to Quintana covering. Chicago manager Robin Ventura came out for an explanation from first base umpire Mike Muchlinski and replays appeared to show that Quintana beat Fielder to the bag by a step.
Young followed with another RBI single to put the Tigers ahead 4-3.