CHICAGO -- To contend or not to contend?
That is the question plaguing the 2011 White Sox since sometime around early May.
It even became one topic of conversation following a rare blowout for the White Sox, who crushed the Rangers by a 10-0 margin on Sunday, finishing off this 5-4 homestand for a team sitting at 29-36 at U.S. Cellular Field this season.
But the first-place Tigers (68-58) won again, almost giving away a seven-run lead against the Indians (62-61), but holding on in the ninth when Austin Jackson threw out Kosuke Fukudome at the plate as the game's tying run. So the White Sox (63-63) won two of three games against the American League West-leading Rangers (73-55) to move back to .500 but still lost one game in the standings during the series, sitting at five games back with 36 to play.
Six of those 36 are with the Tigers, and the White Sox will need more games like Sunday to make a dent in this deficit. For now, the players remain focused on the daily job they have to do and not what's going on with anybody else.
"Every day we come to the ballpark to win," said Gavin Floyd, the winning pitcher for the White Sox. "I don't think we expect to lose. We just try to handle our business."
"I haven't seen what [the Tigers] have been doing," said White Sox second baseman Gordon Beckham, who snapped an 0-for-14 skid with two of the team's 16 hits. "I know they won the first two and I guess they won today. So yeah, we have to play well and we still have a chance. We just have to keep fighting and keep winning games."
The White Sox had very little trouble with Texas starter Derek Holland (11-5), scoring five runs on eight hits over 3 1/3 innings. They did an equal amount of damage against reliever Scott Feldman, who yielded five runs on eight hits in 4 2/3 innings. They scored 10 or more runs for the fourth time in 2011 and for the first time since May 31 against Boston, with Brent Lillibridge's three hits leading seven multihit efforts.
Lillibridge ignited a four-run third with his 11th home run, coming on a 1-2 Holland offering. His blast also scored Juan Pierre, who finished with two hits and two RBIs.
Now featuring as many homers as designated hitter Adam Dunn, Lillibridge admitted to being surprised by his power outburst.
"Yeah, I really am. I didn't really think I would be driving that many balls over the fence," Lillibridge said. "I love that they are going over the fence, but you never know. Another day it's doubles, and I'm just as happy."
"He's got a lot of power. I always knew that," said Beckham of Lillibridge. "He's a strong guy, he's a fast-twitch guy. He's really played great this year. He's been wonderful and he's really helped us in a big way."
Holland issued two-out walks to Alexei Ramirez and Tyler Flowers in the third, and they both came around to score on Alejandro De Aza's double to left-center. A fifth run scored in the fourth via a single from Paul Konerko, marking his second hit of the game and the 1,999th of his career, and Pierre singled home two more runs in the fifth.
"To me, that was pretty pathetic," said Holland, who lost for the first time since July 2. "I came out and had good stuff in the first two innings, and in the third inning, things kind of just fell apart. I lost the feel for my fastball and, with me, I have to pitch with my fastball."
"Definitely good momentum for us going on the road trip," said Flowers, who is now hitting .316. "We threw the ball outstanding, we hit the ball pretty darn well and made plays."
Floyd (11-10) was the beneficiary of the offensive outburst, with help from Chris Sale and Jason Frasor. But to be honest, he didn't need much to grab the team lead in victories. Floyd allowed just three singles over seven-plus innings, striking out six and walking one, before exiting in the eighth to a standing ovation after Yorvit Torrealba's leadoff single on pitch No. 116.
About the only slight problematic moment from Sunday's near-perfect effort came for the White Sox in the eighth, when Konerko grounded to third in his second attempt for career hit No. 2,000. At that same moment, Jackson was nailing Fukudome with a strike to catcher Alex Avila on Matt LaPorta's fly ball at Comerica Park.
In the White Sox eyes, though, Detroit's victory moves the South Siders one step closer to the Indians, who they also have to catch to win the American League Central. It's a certain uphill battle to jump over the Tigers, with the next challenge coming from Ervin Santana and Jered Weaver Tuesday and Wednesday in Anaheim, but the White Sox sound as if they have some climb left in them.
"We have six more games with them so those will be important games," said Beckham of Detroit. "We just got to go out there and do what we are capable of doing. And hopefully it works out."
"As a coaching staff, we needed that one, we did," said White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen of Sunday's series-deciding win. "It's all fun -- those guys swinging the bats the way they did. Coming off a big series, a big game for us and to come out on top, it was great."