With two swings of the bat, Chicago outfielder Alex Rios may have altered the momentum that had been going against the White Sox's favor.
Looking to win consecutive games for the first time in nearly two weeks, the White Sox begin a three-game set on Friday night with a Kansas City Royals team that has won five straight in this season series.
Chicago appeared to be on the ropes a bit heading into Wednesday's finale of a three-game series with the Minnesota Twins. The White Sox had lost seven of nine and held just a one-game lead for first place in the AL Central over the Detroit Tigers, who had just swept them last weekend.
Rios, though, delivered as he hit a pair of home runs to account for all of the offense in a 6-2 win that kept Chicago ahead of Detroit, which bested the Cleveland Indians on Wednesday as well.
Rios hit the second grand slam of his career and added a two-run homer versus the Twins for a career-high six runs batted in.
"He's a great player," White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. "He brings it every day."
The 31-year-old outfielder is hitting .298 with 22 homers and 82 RBI on the season, He is two home runs shy of his career high set in 2007 with the Toronto Blue Jays and six RBI behind the personal-best 88 he drove in during the 2010 season in Chicago.
"It's so much fun when you come to the field with a purpose," Rios said. "The next couple of weeks are going to be so much fun because of how close the race is."
Jake Peavy did his part on the mound Wednesday, allowing one run on five hits and a walk in six innings of work for Chicago, which hasn't won consecutive games since a six-game run from Aug. 20-26.
Accomplishing that could be difficult tonight given that the White Sox have lost five straight and eight of 12 against the Royals this season.
Chicago pins its hopes on Francisco Liriano, who is coming off his first loss since getting dealt by the Twins to the White Sox.
The 28-year-old lefty dipped to 2-1 with a 4.54 earned run average in seven starts since the deal following a wild outing against the Tigers on Saturday. Liriano allowed three runs on four hits and seven walks in four frames of work, his first defeat since July 23, which came against his current team.
Liriano is 6-5 in his career with a 4.21 ERA versus the Royals.
Kansas City was aiming for a split of a four-game series with the Texas Rangers, but lost a 5-4 decision in 10 innings in Thursday's finale.
Jeff Francoeur and Eric Hosmer hit solo home runs as the Royals jumped out to an early lead, but Greg Holland yielded the go-ahead run in Kansas City's fifth loss in seven games.
"We're not here to be competitive. We're here to win," Holland said. "Tonight was just one of those nights where one bad pitch and there's a ball off the wall. You lose the game."
Kansas City turns tonight to Luis Mendoza, who has not factored into his last two starts, going five innings in each.
After getting tagged for six runs versus Detroit on Aug. 28, the 28-year-old righty yielded two runs on seven hits without a walk. He is 7-9 with a 4.48 ERA in 25 games (20 starts) this year.
Mendoza's last win came on Aug. 17 versus the White Sox, scattering two runs and four hits over seven frames with six strikeouts. He is 4-3 with a 4.11 ERA in eight career matchups with the White Sox, including six starts.