CHICAGO —Turns out, the Rays will have to wait until late tonight to find out their opponent for Thursday's American League division series opener at Tropicana Field.
And two pitchers from Tampa Bay's past played a role in the delay.
On a day befitting a wild AL Central race that is down to a winner-take-all 163rd game, the White Sox emerged Monday from a three-hour rain delay to outlast the Tigers 8-2 in a makeup game at U.S. Cellular Field.
The White Sox, tied with the Twins for first place, will host Minnesota tonight for a one-game playoff at 7:30 to decide who faces Tampa Bay. Avoiding elimination for the second straight day, the White Sox had a wild five-run rally in the sixth, victimizing former Rays relievers Bobby Seay and Gary Glover. Three wild pitches and two Seay walks set the table, and Sox second baseman Alexei Ramirez delivered an MLB rookie record fourth grand slam of the season on the first pitch from Glover.
"162 games mean nothing," White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said. "It's only about one game, and that's great."
When asked what he'd tell his players about today's playoff, Guillen said: "Get your rest."
Most of the Twins watched the game from the Metrodome. "I know I'm ready to go in there and upset them," outfielder Denard Span, of Tampa Catholic, told mlb.com.
The Rays clinched the AL East on Friday, allowing them to recoup. The Twins or White Sox could be running on fumes when they reach the bay area, likely early Wednesday. And White Sox starters have taken a warrior-like workload.
Right-hander Gavin Floyd, Monday's winner, became the third straight Sox pitcher to throw on three days' rest. Tonight, Sox lefty John Danks said he'll go on three days' rest for the first time in his career.
Sox right-hander Javier Vazquez and lefty Mark Buehrle (potential ALDS Game 1-2 starters) have started on three days' rest twice in the past two weeks. Before this season, Buehrle had two starts on three days' rest in eight seasons; Vazquez had one
"I won't feel quite as strong," Danks said. "I don't have any doubts I'm going to feel good, but I'm not going to feel like I can throw it 100 miles per hour."
The White Sox, who held a 2½-game lead over the Twins nine days ago, were on the verge of a collapse, having lost five straight with tension in the clubhouse. But before Sunday's game, Guillen delivered a not-so-subtle message which he wrote on the bulletin board: "(Forget) Feelings. It's about winning!!!"
The White Sox haven't lost since.
"I know we were embarrassed (in Minnesota),'' Danks said. "Obviously we would have liked to not have to worry about playing them one more time, but at the same time, we want to get them back."
And get a shot at the Rays.
Joe Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org