White Sox captain Paul Konerko knows the best way to approach the drama of a September pennant race is to assume tough times ahead.
“We had Detroit [last] weekend and could have controlled them and didn’t,” he said Monday. “Now we have to assume they’re going to play well and we have to take care of our business. However many games are left is kind of irrelevant. It’s about playing one game and then moving on to the next one. You can’t get to the end until you play all the rest of them.
“It’s grueling and it’s tough, but that’s the way we have to do it. I think we will.”
Grueling and tough was how Monday’s homecoming game was against the struggling Minnesota Twins. But after closer Addison Reed (25th save) gave up a lead off single in the ninth, he struck out Jamey Carroll and got a game-ending double play ball from Alexi Casilla to preserve a 4-2 victory.
With the Tigers losing their afternoon game against Cleveland, the Sox regained sole possession at the top of the American League Central for now.
“Last week wasn’t good for us, but I’m glad we started off with a win at home,” said Gordon Beckham, the offensive hero with a two-run homer in the second against starter Samuel Deduno (5-3). Beckham’s single in the eighth driving in Alexei Ramirez with another run was as important to manager Robin Ventura.
“The homer is nice but what wins you games is those late runs,” Ventura said. “It eases the bullpen and gives them breathing room.”
Ventura used six relievers after rookie Hector Santiago gave the rotation a lift, working into the sixth and holding the Twins to one run on three hits–the only run a homer by Jamey Carroll, who hadn’t hit one since Aug. 9, 2009.
“Hector did a great job,” Ventura said of the lefty who started the season as the team closer. “You ask him to start, a guy who’s been the closer then went to the bullpen. We send him down to get stretched out. Then you ask him to stop a losing streak and he did.”
Santiago (3-1) watched the Sox Sunday night loss to the Tigers.
“I got home and watched the entire game,” he said. “I knew what [Monday] meant. I wanted to go out there and try to help the team win.
“I felt comfortable. I just tried to go hitter to hitter.”
The Labor Day evening crowd of 21,676 saw the Sox shake off the disappointment of the road trip and end a four-game losing streak.
“The best way to get going again is to get out there and play hard and get a W,” said Konerko, whose seventh inning single drove in Kevin Youkilis with the Sox’ third run.
“It’s already away,” manager Robin Ventura said of the road losses and Detroit sweep. “You are already on to another team. There are 30 games left, so no matter who won last night or won lost last night, you still have to win games from this point forward, so there’s no sense feeling sorry for yourself because nobody else is going to. Just get ready for today and work on the things you need to work on and re-focus.”
The ups and downs September will bring will be “a learning curve” for the team, Ventura said.
“You can lose the game or lose the series and still have to come back and play and be prepared for the next night,” he said, adding “there are worse circumstances than what we are in right now.
“Right now, you have to focus on the game and not the consequences,” he said. “It doesn’t help you to think about what can happen if you lose. It’s more about staying in the moment, playing and taking care of what you can take care of.”