White Sox extend lead behind Floyd

White Sox extend lead behind Floyd

NEW YORK -- It's a moment that took place in the fifth inning of Tuesday's 6-2 victory for the White Sox at Yankee Stadium, a head-to-head encounter lasting about three or four minutes between Gavin Floyd and Jason Giambi, which often would go overlooked in the course of a big game.

Yet, the battle between the White Sox ace and one of the most selective sluggers in the game basically defined Chicago's win on this particular comfortable evening in New York. If the White Sox go on to capture the American League Central title, it just might be a moment players and fans alike point to as a difference-maker in the run to the postseason.

"I think that's when this kid starts to be a man now," said White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen of Floyd fanning Giambi to end one of the Yankees' biggest threats on Tuesday. "He never gave up or gave in."

"In general, Gavin was a horse tonight," White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko added. "That's a tall order against this lineup, a bunch of tough left-handers at Yankee Stadium. But it was a big time game for him."

Here are the nuts and bolts of this edge-of-your-seat, fifth-inning matchup.

Giambi, who had launched his 31st home run one inning earlier, came to the plate with two outs and the bases loaded, his team trailing by a 4-2 margin. He missed by seven or eight feet pulling a grand slam fair down the right-field line on a 2-0 pitch from Floyd and then worked the count full. Giambi proceeded to foul off five pitches before striking out swinging to end a 12-pitch at-bat.

What was the pitch Floyd threw to finally fool Giambi, who was way out in front on the final pass? It was a slider, according to the understated right-hander.

"He kept fouling those pitches off, and I was like 'Uncle,'" said Floyd with a laugh. "I just tried to keep my focus, execute my pitches and get an out."

Floyd (16-7) picked up his ninth win after a White Sox loss this season, allowing two runs on nine hits over seven innings, while throwing a career-high 116 pitches. He received offensive support from Alexei Ramirez, who launched his 18th home run of the season off Andy Pettitte (13-14) to put Chicago on the board in the third, and Juan Uribe, who finished 3-for-3, reached base in all four plate appearances and drove in two runs.

One of those Uribe RBIs came in the eighth via a double. The first run-scoring maneuver was a bit more unusual for the free-swinger, as he drew a bases-loaded walk from Pettitte during a three-run fourth.

"Uribe has been playing great, both at third base and getting big hits," Guillen said.

Ken Griffey Jr. and Brian Anderson added run-scoring singles, while Konerko returned to action with authority. After missing the last week of action due to a sprained MCL in his right knee, which looked much worse at the time it happened than it turned out to be, Konerko had two hits and an RBI in his comeback.

Konerko was replaced by Nick Swisher at first base in the eighth, and said he felt a little tired in the sixth or seventh inning. That sort of fatigue was to be expected.

"Usually when you are out for a few games, you try to see some pitches when you come back," said Konerko, who raised his average to .247. "But I tried to get going early. I just felt like the first good pitch I saw, get off on that in any at-bat. I felt like I did seven days ago, which is good, because I felt good then."

"Paulie put some good at-bats together, and we need that from him," Guillen added. "He picked up from where he left off when he got hurt."

Tuesday's win raised the White Sox record to 84-66 and shaved their magic number to 10, as the Twins lost to the Indians in Cleveland. It was certainly made possible by timely hitting and strong relief work from both Matt Thornton and Bobby Jenks.

If a hero is needed in this victory, though, that honor belongs to Floyd. He didn't walk a batter and struck out four. None of those strikeouts were bigger than the one he picked up against Giambi in the fifth.

"Every time we are bleeding, this guy right away stops the bleeding, and [he's] given us a chance to compete all year long," said Guillen of Floyd.

"Great pitch, great at-bat, great job by Gavin," added Konerko of the crucial Giambi strikeout. "Nobody really did anything wrong in that at-bat. It just worked out for us."

Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.