CLEVELAND -- Call it revenge. Call it the magic of baseball karma.
But in the case of Alex Rios' 10th-inning at-bat against Cleveland closer Chris Perez on Tuesday night at Progressive Field, call it a White Sox necessity during the South Siders' 5-3 victory.
Rios had on-field words for Perez last Thursday at U.S. Cellular Field when the Indians closer appeared to yell at Rios after he grounded out to end a White Sox loss and then even followed him a step or two down the line to yell more in Rios' direction. Perez said he was just fired up about the save, while Rios countered that Perez's histrionics didn't represent a proper celebration.
This issue seemed to be resolved temporarily in Rios' favor when he tripled to right-center to score pinch-runner Brent Lillibridge with the go-ahead run on Tuesday. It was Rios' third extra-base hit off Perez (0-1) in just 10 career at-bats, and for a little extra emphasis, he popped up on his slide and slapped his hands with vigor upon reaching third base.
After the hard-fought victory for the White Sox (14-17), ending their three-game losing streak, Rios and Perez played down this particular hit having more meaning than any other game-winning shot.
"You know, it's part of the game," said Rios, who finished 3-for-4. "I was just trying to have a good at-bat, try to hit the ball hard somewhere, to at least get somebody on first and third. It worked out pretty good."
"That was part of the game there [in Chicago]. This is totally different," said Perez of the encounters with Rios. "We didn't say any words today. I just made a bad pitch. I left it out over the plate and he did what he's supposed to do. He hit it into the gap."
Through seven innings, the only White Sox hero on this night looked to be starting pitcher John Danks.
The White Sox held a 3-0 lead in the eighth, before the Indians (17-12) rallied for a tie. The inning opened with base hits from Casey Kotchman and Jack Hannahan off Danks, as Hannahan's came on an opposite-field high fly down the left-field line landing in front of Dayan Viciedo.
Manager Robin Ventura said the Hannahan hit was a tough play for Viciedo to make.
"Dayan has come along defensively," said Ventura, who had decided to save Lillibridge, his usual defensive replacement, for a potential pinch-running situation, which came up in the 10th after Paul Konerko's leadoff single. "He has made some plays."
Danks was replaced by Sale, who immediately had to face a bases-loaded, nobody-out situation after Alexei Ramirez committed an error on Johnny Damon's slow grounder. Jason Kipnis' groundout to Konerko scored one run, and following a walk to Asdrubal Cabrera, Carlos Santana almost decapitated Sale with a two-run, game-tying single to center.
Ventura's plan was to use Sale in the game's biggest situation, which happened to be the eighth inning on this night. If Sale had a quick eighth, he would have gone two innings for the save, and Sale was ready to work the two.
"He's not hurt," said Ventura of Sale, who blew the save by giving up one unearned run. "Everything that was going on, he's still capable of throwing two. He understands. He was available."
"Mentally, physically, I was ready to go," said Sale, who hadn't pitched since May 1. "I felt great. It's been a while since I got off the mound, so I was excited to get back out there. I wanted to give it a better effort than I did. The important part is that the ballclub won."
Hector Santiago (1-1) picked up his first Major League win by pitching out of a two-out, two-on jam in the ninth, and Addison Reed (second save) fanned two in a perfect 10th. Danks finished with a no-decision, but it was the kind of no-decision Danks needed after allowing 17 earned runs on 22 hits and nine walks over his previous 18 2/3 innings.
Danks struck out one and walked three, but gave up only five hits and was charged with the two runs. He expressed a sense of relief in the postgame excitement, both for the White Sox win and for his first quality start since April 17.
"What a relief almost," said a smiling Danks, who threw 101 pitches. "It's definitely good to have a respectable outing. I feel like I've obviously let a lot of people down the last month or so and I've just been frustrated.
"I've done a lot of soul searching and I've done a lot of work on the side and just video, everything. Definitely, it feels good to have a good start and get a win and hopefully we can salvage the series tomorrow."
A two-run first inning off Justin Masterson and Danks' exceptional work looked as if it would be enough to give the White Sox a shot at the series split. In the end, it was Rios' sweet swing and unspoken payback that did the job.
"Baseball has its way of doing that," Ventura said. "I'm sure you've had situations in baseball where you have that and your focus is a little better. It's a well-struck ball. Baseball players don't forget a lot of stuff."
"We lost those two games yesterday," Rios said. "But to come back like this is a confidence boost."