Jim Thome felt the sense of urgency Sunday from the time he arrived at Fenway Park until left fielder Carlos Quentin squeezed Dustin Pedroia's fly ball with the tying run at second base in the ninth.
"That's why I think this win was so big," said Thome, whose 536th career homer helped the White Sox clear several hurdles to seize a 4-2 victory over the Red Sox, snap a three-game losing streak and head to Cleveland with momentum.
"From the start, we were ready to go, and it showed."
The victory kept the Sox in first place in the AL Central, a half-game ahead of the Twins heading into the final four weeks of the season. Manager Ozzie Guillen said anything short of a playoff berth would be a failure despite a remarkable rebound from a 90-loss season.
"They pay me to win this thing," Guillen said. "We have a good enough club to do it."
The Sox responded to every challenge, as Gavin Floyd (15-6) won for the eighth time after a Sox loss.
"Every time we start bleeding, he stops the bleeding," Guillen said. "We're lucky."
In the fourth, Floyd struck out Jed Lowrie on a curve with the tying and go-ahead runners in scoring position to end a 10-pitch at-bat and a Red Sox rally.
Reliever Octavio Dotel struck out Jason Bay and Jeff Bailey to end the eighth and thumped his chest while walking off the mound.
"When I do my job against a team like this one, you have to be really happy," Dotel said. "Any player on that club can turn the game in a different way."
The Sox also came up with clutch hits. Paul Konerko knocked a two-out RBI double in the sixth, and Joe Crede did the same in the ninth.
"It's a matter of getting all those components together in one game," said Crede, who snagged Bay's line drive with the bases loaded to end the first.
Crede's hit loomed larger because the Red Sox rallied in the ninth and threatened to tie the game after David Ortiz walked and pinch-runner Coco Crisp stole second base with Jacoby Ellsbury at third.
But closer Bobby Jenks didn't give in to Pedroia, who had reached base 11 consecutive times before Floyd got him out in the third.
"Just play your cards and try to get that third out," Jenks said after earning his 13th consecutive save.
The Sox avoided what would have been their first series sweep since the Cubs took three straight at Wrigley Field from June 20-22. They now return to AL Central play, where they are 36-21 and have won nine of their last 10 against Cleveland.
"We needed a win like that," Guillen said. "I didn't want to go to Cleveland with our head down thinking about what happened here this weekend. This ballclub is pretty good about bouncing back. It's a better trip going to Cleveland with a win."
It also took some pressure off rookie left-hander Clayton Richard, who will oppose 19-game winner Cliff Lee on Monday night.
"It's really important because the Minnesota Twins are right there behind us," Dotel said. "It's going to be important from now on."Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun