CHICAGO | In past years, a budding batting slump by Alex Rios might spiral out of control, with the entire year lost.
On Wednesday, though, the White Sox right-fielder, in an 0-for-13 and 5-for-31 slide, slugged a two-run fifth-inning homer to provide the edge in a 3-2 win against the Cleveland Indians.
The Sox benefited from a breakthrough year from Rios in 2012. He slugged 25 homers, drove in 91 runs and batted .304. At 32, he’s more than mature to handle the roller coaster of the long season.
“As you get older and spend time in the big leagues, you learn yourself,” Rios said after the much-needed victory. The Sox had lost four in a row and 10 of their last 13 coming into the matinee game on a 43-degree day.
“You learn yourself,” he said. “You learn how to deal with your swing and different situations. I believe I’ve learned a lot from years in the past.”
As late as the end of the 2011 season, Rios was weighed down by doubts. After his second bad season in his last three, he thought of changing his swing. The alternations ended up very modest. A shift from center to his favored right field also took a burden off the traditionally talented but under-producing Rios.
Manager Robin Ventura likely knew Rios deserved to be his No. 3 hitter last season. But as a rookie manager, he likely hesitated moving the strikeout-prone Adam Dunn out of that batting slot in the middle of a pennant race. Thus the shift to No. 3 this season was a slam dunk.
“He was that guy last year,” Ventura said, "just a good all-around player. A good outfielder, a good runner. As complete a guy as you can find.”
Rios’ best was sorely needed against the Indians.
The Sox manufactured a first-inning run via an Alejandro De Aza walk, stolen base and Jeff Keppinger single. But their problems with runners in scoring position continued with more failures in the third, fourth, sixth and eighth innings. They had come in ranking last in the American League with a .163 (17-for-104) average with RISP. The Sox were 0-for-10 in their previous four games.
Thus Rios was needed to lift one over the fence for the win, in this case an 0-2 pitch from Indians starter Zack McAllister.
“I knew I wasn’t swinging the bat so well (earlier),” he said. “He probably didn’t want to throw me any off-speed pitches because I was behind on some pitches. It happened that I put a good swing on it and got the head out and the good result came.”