Rios grand: Slam, 2-run HR as Sox stay 1 up on Tigers
BY DARYL VAN SCHOUWEN firstname.lastname@example.org September 5, 2012 10:16PM
Updated: October 6, 2012 2:04PM
Alex Rios’ September plan is the same one he has stuck to all season long.
Hit the ball where it’s pitched. Don’t worry about mechanics. And don’t change the approach just because the team isn’t hitting or pitching well.
“As a hitter, I don’t try to overdo things when we’re giving up a lot of runs because it doesn’t fix anything,’’ Rios said. “You have to keep having the same approach. If you change, you might make things worse.
“You go through periods when you’re not scoring runs or you’re giving up a lot of runs. You can’t let it affect how you go about hitting.’’
Continuing on a Comeback Player of the Year push, Rios carried the White Sox to a 6-2 victory Wednesday afternoon before 17,336 fans at U.S. Cellular Field. Against P.J. Walters, he hit a grand slam in the first inning and a two-run homer in the sixth to account for all of the Sox’ runs. Jake Peavy (10-10) did the rest with six strong innings of one-run, five-hit ball.
“He’s been consistent all year long,’’ manager Robin Ventura said. “He’s had some big hits for us. Playing the outfield, same thing — he’s made some great plays. And he runs the bases great. It was good for him to come in here, especially after last night when you get waxed and come back and get something early.”
Buried in the Sox’ 18-9 drubbing from the Twins the night before was a three-run first in which the Sox strung together good situational at-bats, including a two-out RBI single by Rios to the opposite field.
Sandwiched around Rios’ go-with-the-pitch poke to right was Paul Konerko’s RBI ground out and Dayan Viciedo’s two-out double that scored Rios from first.
On Wednesday, Rios launched homers that carried more than 400 feet, one to left and one to center. His career-high six RBI gave him 82, six shy of team leader Adam Dunn and his own career high in 2010. The homers were his 21st and 22nd.
“I got a couple of good pitches and connected,’’ Rios said.
“It’s been so much fun when you come to the field and there is a purpose. We have to come here and win games. These last couple of weeks will be so much fun because of how close the race is.’’
The American League Central-leading Sox won the rubber game of their three-game series with the Twins, putting pressure on the second-place Tigers, who avoided getting swept by the Indians on Wednesday night to stay a game behind the Sox.
Rios became the third player in franchise history with 30-plus doubles, 20-plus homers and 20-plus steals, joining Magglio Ordonez and Ray Durham.
“If we win, it’s going to mean a lot to me,’’ Rios said. “If not, it’s just going to be another year. Hopefully we do well as a team and achieve our goal of going to the playoffs.’’
Rios altered his stance and the position of his hands early and often last season, when he hit .227. He said the key to his consistency this year — his 2-for-19 minislump going into the game was rare — is simple.
“I’m not thinking about mechanics too much,’’ he said. “I’m just thinking about the approach and leaving the mechanics out of the equation. That’s a big part of it.’’
Rios has been a big part of the Sox’ first-place push.
“I don’t know about last year,’’ Ventura said. “All I know about is this year. He’s a great player and brings it every day.’’