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White Sox beat Rays, move one game back of Tigers in Central

Chicago White Sox Vs TampBay Rays. White Sox players KevYoukliis Alex Rios GordBeckham Alexei Ramirez celebrate wFriday evening over TampBay

Chicago White Sox Vs Tampa Bay Rays. White Sox players Kevin Youkliis, Alex Rios, Gordon Beckham and Alexei Ramirez celebrate the win Friday evening over the Tampa Bay Rays. I Scott Stewart~Sun-Times

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Updated: October 30, 2012 6:14AM

Cheers erupted at U.S. Cellular Field in the top of the eighth inning Friday, the kind of thing that happens in September in a playoff race.

‘‘I thought the Bears scored,’’ a smiling White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. ‘‘I knew they weren’t playing, so I knew it was the Tigers score [a loss against the Twins].’’

For 25,264 fans, it got even better moments later when the Sox completed a 3-1 comeback victory against the Rays to move a game behind the American League Central leaders.

‘‘When I heard the crowd cheer, I knew something was going on,’’ said Alex Rios, the hitting hero who gave the Sox a 2-1 lead in the fourth with his career-high 25th homer.

‘‘Hopefully what we did tonight can get the momentum going and get us going. It’s good we’re just one game back, and anything can happen. We just have to play the same way we did tonight.’’

The Sox’ pitching carried the night. Gavin Floyd (11-11) persevered through five innings, holding the Rays to Ben Zobrist’s home run in the first inning and Luke Scott’s single in the second. Jesse Crain was strong through 22/3 innings, giving up only a single to Jeff Keppinger before Matt Thornton, Nate Jones, Donnie Veal and Addison Reed finished.

Rays starter Jeremy Hellickson (9-11) gave up only two earned runs but took the loss.

‘‘We’ve played games like that all the time, but Gavin did a great job, and I can’t say enough about Jesse,’’ Ventura said. ‘‘He looked strong enough to do it.

‘‘We finally got a couple of timely hits, and guys came across the plate.’’

The Sox ended the Rays’ eight-game winning streak. ‘‘Jealous’’ was how Ventura described his feelings about the Rays’ streak, but by the end of the evening, the Sox were feeling good about themselves again after snapping a three-game skid of their own.

‘‘You’ve got to treat it as any other game and go out there and continue to have the same mentality, the same approach,’’ said Floyd, who will have one more start in the final three-game series in Cleveland. ‘‘You try to let your players field for you and try to put zeros up there. If you put more emphasis on it, it’s not going to help you out.’’

The Sox still went only 2-for-11 with runners in scoring position, but good pitching made the difference.

‘‘That’s how the playoffs are most of the time,’’ Paul Konerko said of the low-scoring game. ‘‘In that sense, the urgency and what’s going on out there definitely feel [like the playoffs]. We’re playing a team who’s desperate to win, too. It’s equal on both sides.

‘‘We’ve been playing these games for a while now, for weeks. They are draining, but everybody is dialed in, and we’re going to finish it to the end and see what happens.’’

Rios said the last five games will take mental toughness.

‘‘It’s mentally exhausting,’’ Rios said. ‘‘It’s like we’re playing in the playoffs right now, and it’s been like this for quite a bit.

‘‘But you know what? It might be good because we’re getting used to it. If we make it — and I think we’re going to make it — it’s going to help us because our minds are going to be in that mind-set. It’s going to be good.’’

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