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Floyd strikes out Avila to end the threat

CHICAGO -- The first-place Chicago White Sox.

Study it. Relish it. Remember it, because you might not see it again over the course of the 2012 season.

Then again ...

Saturday's 5-1 victory over the American League Central consensus favorite Tigers (5-3) before 33,025 at U.S Cellular Field put the White Sox (5-2) alone atop the division for the first time since April 2 of last season. They held a lofty 2-0 record at that point.

Predicting a season's outcome on seven games is somewhat akin to saying a hitter who starts out 15-for-30 has a chance to become the game's first .500 hitter. So, throw away the standings, because first and second place won't really and truly have significance until somewhere around the All-Star break.

Instead study the plan for success produced by the White Sox under first-year manager Robin Ventura. That formula features quality starting pitching, a relief crew that has the AL's best collective ERA, aggressive baserunning, airtight defense and timely hitting.

It's a combination that gives the greatest skeptic even the faintest glimmer of hope.

"We play hard. We play as a team, more so than I've been here I think," said White Sox catcher Tyler Flowers, who homered and swiped a base in a series-clinching victory over the Tigers. "There seems to be a little bit more camaraderie and such going on in the clubhouse, the field and the dugout. That's better for the team and I think it picks everyone up when someone struggles."

"For right now, I like the feel of the team and the way they come every day prepared to play," Ventura said. "That's the most important thing for me."

Alexei Ramirez (second inning) and Flowers (fifth) went deep off Adam Wilk (0-1), who really made only two mistakes against the White Sox in his first Major League start. Wilk left the game after five innings and 62 pitches because of a left-shoulder contusion, which he sustained in the top of the sixth when struck in the dugout by a Prince Fielder foul ball.

With four strikeouts, one walk and just three hits allowed, the left-handed Wilk was very good. Gavin Floyd was a little bit better as the White Sox starter ... and a little bit wilder.

Floyd (1-1) walked three and struck out six, throwing 98 pitches over six scoreless innings. But those numbers don't completely define the trouble danced in and out of by the veteran right-hander.

In the second inning, Floyd hit Delmon Young with a pitch, walked Jhonny Peralta and then hit Andy Dirks to load the bases with two outs. But Ryan Raburn flied out to right to end the rally. In the sixth, Austin Jackson doubled and two outs later, Floyd walked Fielder and Young to load the bases once again. This time, it was Alex Avila who struck out swinging on a Floyd cutter to keep the Tigers scoreless.

"He took advantage of our aggressiveness," said Detroit manager Jim Leyland of Floyd, who was helped out by three double plays in the first four innings. "We had some real bad at-bats, to be honest with you."

"You've got to give credit to him," said Jackson, who accounted for three of the Tigers' five hits. "We definitely had the opportunities, but he made good pitches."

After Wilk's unexpected departure, the White Sox added one in the sixth on back-to-back doubles from Brent Morel and Adam Dunn. They tacked on one in the seventh when Flowers was hit by a Collin Balester pitch, tied Alejandro De Aza for the team-lead with a stolen base and then scored on De Aza's second triple in two days.

Paul Konerko completed the scoring with his first home run leading off the eighth, giving him 397 for his career and sole possession of 51st place on the all-time list. Konerko, who has hit in eight straight dating back to 2011 and has seven RBIs this season, typically brushed aside another impressive personal accomplishment to focus on the team's solid start.

By Konerko's educated estimation, these seven games actually mark the start within a start.

"A start is two months of the season, so that's a long way away," Konerko said. "But I think we're doing it right, we're going about it right. We're taking it inning by inning. We're not really thinking too many big things out there.

"We're just trying to get through. It's the way it should be. We're not putting any added pressure on anything, but at the same time, everybody's got a job to do and have taken upon themselves to do it right."

Ventura's crew has won four straight, with all of those wins coming against AL Central opponents. The White Sox finished 32-40 within the division last season and have 26 contests against the Central before the end of May.

Yes, it's early ... like 2 o'clock in the morning in terms of the scope of the season. But if the White Sox win Sunday, they match their longest win streak from all of 2011, and of course, hang on to first place for another day.

"Most teams this time of year are doing it right, and certainly we are," Konerko said. "As we get into the season here, it starts to get into that grind. That starts to be the test, and we have to make sure we're up for that test."

"Those are the guys that you are going against for the playoffs," said Ventura of the 4-0 Central start. "It's nice to start off that way. It is April, though." Comments