CHICAGO -- A number of terms have been used to describe the 2011 White Sox.
There's contenders and pretenders. All-in and in trouble.
And sadly for everyone from White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf to the final player on the roster, underachievers has been the most common word association.
Following Saturday's 3-2 victory over the Rangers before 30,021 at U.S. Cellular Field, White Sox closer Sergio Santos came up with another phrase shortly after completing his 26th save to get a win for Jesse Crain (8-3).
Let's try "emotionally draining."
"We get glimpses of the team that we are," Santos said. "Then for whatever reason, we get 10 games where we're not playing anywhere near where we should be playing."
Go back to July 22 to support Santos' accurate depiction.
From that Friday victory in Cleveland up through July 29 against the Red Sox, Ozzie Guillen's crew posted a 5-1 record, reached the .500 mark and were just three games out of first place in the American League Central. The White Sox went on to lose six straight, including a four-game home sweep at the hands of the Yankees, dropping them 6 1/2 games behind the Tigers.
Seemingly down for the count, the White Sox put together nine wins in 11 games and moved one game over .500, within one-half game of the second-place Indians and a mere 3 1/2 games from the division lead. Of course, consecutive losses to the Indians and coming up short against the Rangers were next on the docket.
Anyone who can explain this talented team lacking consistent results, please step forward.
"You really can't," said White Sox starting pitcher John Danks with almost an exasperated smile. "We're getting close to the time where you can't say, 'We have time.'
"Obviously, we need to win ballgames, and there are plenty of games against the teams we need to beat. But at the same time, we have to keep pace even when we're not playing them."
On Saturday night, the White Sox (62-63) kept pace with the Tigers (67-58), who pummeled the Indians (62-60) by a 10-1 final. The South Siders moved within 1 1/2 games of second place and remain five back of first.
Danks and Texas starter Alexi Ogando engaged in a spirited pitchers' battle for seven innings, with each hurler giving up two runs and striking out five. Neither of them factored in the final decision.
In fact, a player who didn't even start the game came through with the winning drive for the White Sox in the bottom of the eighth inning.
Alex Rios replaced right fielder Carlos Quentin with just one out in the first inning, when Quentin injured his left shoulder making a diving catch on Craig Gentry's blooper to right-center. X-rays were negative on Quentin, who will not play Sunday and will be re-evaluated.
Rios' first three at-bats resulted in a strikeout with runners on the corners and one out in the first, a hard ground ball to shortstop Omar Quintanilla in the third and a long fly ball to Gentry in the sixth. In the eighth, Rios connected with a 3-2 pitch from reliever Koji Uehara (1-3) and rifled a double down the left-field line with just one out, scoring Brent Lillibridge from first.
Lillibridge pinch-ran for Paul Konerko, whose one-out single in the eighth left him three hits shy of 2,000 for his career. The low-key Rios was very matter of fact about his contribution after this important win.
"That's what I'm supposed to do," Rios said. "I'm supposed to help the team win games. Fortunately, it happened and we are glad we won the game.
"I've never lost my confidence. It's something that athletes can't do," added Rios, now hitting .212 with 29 RBIs. "It will bring you down. I'm just trying my best and I'm not going to quit. Even if I'm at my lowest point, I'm not going to quit. I'm ready to battle."
Ian Kinsler provided most of the offense against Danks, coming up with three of the seven hits. On the second pitch of the game, before the crowd had a chance to settle in with their Mark Buehrle bobbleheads, Kinsler homered down the left-field line. With one out in the third, Kinsler homered again to left off his former teammate to tie the game at 2.
Otherwise, Danks pitched well enough to win.
"He was just doing what Danks does," Texas manager Ron Washington said. "Change speeds, move his fastball around. It was just one of those games where the two pitchers that were out there to start the game weren't giving up much. They got their runs the way they got them, we got ours the way we got them, and from that point, they just pitched."
"It was one of the rare games you feel like you get stronger as the game goes on," Danks said. "It was fun, you know? You're facing one of the best teams in all of baseball, and Tyler [Flowers] and I were on the same page."
A series win Sunday would be another big step forward for the White Sox, as they get ready for a five-game West Coast road trip starting with the Angels' devastating duo of Ervin Santana and Jered Weaver. With this emotionally draining group, though, the unexpected has become the norm.
"As cliche as it sounds, it's a marathon, not a sprint," Danks said. "We need to play pretty good baseball from here on out. I've been a firm believer in this team since Day 1, and I don't feel any different now."