Sox undaunted by must-win games
Rays are latest opponent unable to put away South Siders
CHICAGO -- Cleveland, Detroit, Minnesota and Tampa Bay. Four teams, four elimination games and four wins in the last eight days.
Can the backs-to-the-wall White Sox make it 5-for-5?
They'll find out Monday at 5:07 p.m. ET when they face the Rays in Game 4 of the American League Division Series at U.S. Cellular Field.
"It seems like every game we've been playing for a while now is one of those [where] if you don't win, pack your bags," White Sox outfielder Brian Anderson said. "I don't know if you could say we're used to it, but by now we're certainly not uncomfortable in these situations."
"I don't think anyone's enjoying it a whole lot," Sox reliever Matt Thornton said. "But when it comes down to it, you have to go after it and do it every game. So here we go again. We'll do it again tomorrow hopefully with the same result."
The opponents have changed, but the one constant in this string has been the ballpark. The Sox have maintained this amazing run at home. But home-field advantage is not the only factor at play.
This is a veteran team that doesn't get rattled, that knows it has prevailed in similar situations and knows it can do it again. And again.
"We have a manager that doesn't panic and a coaching staff that doesn't panic," White Sox outfielder Ken Griffey Jr. said. "We know that we can still win a game, even when our backs are to the wall."
The Rays will go with right-hander Andy Sonnanstine (13-9 with a 4.38 ERA during the regular season) against right-hander Gavin Floyd (17-8, 3.64) in the first postseason appearance for both pitchers.
Floyd hasn't faced Tampa Bay. Sonnanstine is 1-0 with a 2.96 ERA in four career starts against the White Sox, including 1-0 with a 3.00 ERA in three starts this season. In his lone start at the Cell, Sonnanstine gave up four earned runs in 6 1/3 innings on Aug. 24.
Game 4: Just the facts
U.S. Cellular Field
|Rays starter: RHP Andy Sonnanstine|
|2008: 13-9, 4.38 ERA|
|2008 on road: 6-5, 4.35 ERA|
|2008 vs. White Sox: 1-0, 3.00 ERA (3 appearances)|
|Career vs. White Sox: 1-0, 2.96 ERA (4 appearances)|
|Career postseason: First appearance|
|White Sox starter: RHP Gavin Floyd|
|2008: 17-8, 3.84 ERA|
|2008 at home: 10-3, 3.55 ERA|
|2008 vs. Rays: First appearance|
|Career vs. Rays: First appearance|
|Career postseason: First appearance|
|Rays lead series, 2-1. The White Sox are the 12th team to win Game 3 after losing the first two games of a Division Series.|
|Game 1: Rays 6, White Sox 4|
|Game 2: Rays 6, White Sox 2|
|Game 3: White Sox 5, Rays 3|
|Did You Know? The White Sox went just 9-31 in regular-season games this year when they didn't hit a home run. All their RBIs in Sunday's victory came on singles and sacrifice flies.|
"They're very good, and they're very good in this building also," Rays manager Joe Maddon said of the Sox. "They have faced some difficult moments recently in this ballpark and have done well. So it's a bad assumption to think you are just going to come in here and beat up on them. These guys are veterans, they're professionals, they're a very good baseball team and I have a lot of respect for them."
Monday's game will be the first time during their backs-to-the-wall run that the White Sox will face the same team for a second consecutive elimination game. Is there a difference?
"Maybe we don't like our wives and don't want to go home," Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski joked. "Just kidding. I love you, honey.
"This team has been the most resilient team I've ever been around in my career as far as stuff like that. I've never seen a team in big games act as normal and as unflappable as this team has been. Everything's the same. No one changed anything. That's a good sign.
"Obviously, we have to win two more games and it starts with tomorrow. But this team has been amazing, they just don't change. No one changes whether it's Game 1 or Game 180. Everything is the same, our pitching staff from [pitching coach Don Cooper] to [manager] Ozzie [Guillen] to the 25th guy on the roster, everyone is the same. Everyone is having fun. That's all you can ask for in this situation, is to try to make it as normal as possible and see what happens."
Game 3 winner John Danks said it almost feels like the Sox are happy to be here, because there is no pressure on them.
"No one's acting like, you know, this is do or die, and guys are still playing cards up to 30 minutes before the game and laughing and having a good time," Danks said. "We had football on before the game. And, you know, A.J. hit it right on the head, guys really just try to approach it like it's a game in June, you know. I think that helps take the pressure off of us a little bit."
Jim Molony is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.