CHICAGO -- White Sox players have frequently talked about the special bond running throughout this clubhouse back to the start of the 2012 season. So in this particular instance, the team winning might have only enhanced that tight-knit chemistry already in place.
"It has to have a combination," manager Robin Ventura said of the chemistry debate. "Anyone who is in first place or near the top talks about how great it is in the clubhouse. But winning usually does that. I've been on teams that were very bad that had a good chemistry and in the end, it didn't work so well. Guys got along and it was fine. Winning just kind of promotes that."
"You're in first place. First place is where your good chemistry is," third baseman Kevin Youkilis said. "I've been on teams where there have been a few things and we won a World Series. The biggest thing is when you're winning games and in first place, chemistry is highlighted a lot more so hopefully we can have great chemistry the rest of the way."
More important than the chemistry factor is the White Sox maintaining the same singular focus from Spring Training moving forward. Take one game at a time and hope all of those good daily efforts add up to a playoff berth by the time October rolls around.
"When you feel like you are playing to accomplish your goal and that goal is to play in the playoffs, it's fun to come here and try to win every night," said right fielder Alex Rios, who has never played in the postseason. "You have a purpose for coming to the field. It has been one of the most fun seasons I have had."
Ventura gets lineup help with Youk, De Aza
CHICAGO -- For a brief period on Wednesday morning, manager Robin Ventura and his staff tried to put together a starting lineup to face the Royals in their series finale loss without Alejandro De Aza, Kevin Youkilis, Paul Konerko and Alex Rios.
"It was creative," said Ventura with a smile. "It was a fun morning."
Ventura never had to make public that lineup card, as Youkilis and De Aza came to U.S. Cellular Field ready for action. Youkilis was scratched from Tuesday's contest with a sore right knee, while De Aza missed the first two games of the series with back stiffness.
But Rios and Konerko were sidelined, giving them two days of inactivity thanks to Thursday's scheduled off-day. Ventura announced postgame on Wednesday that Konerko sustained a mild concussion in the seventh inning of Tuesday's loss, when Jarrod Dyson's left elbow connected with the right side of Konerko's head as Dyson beat out an infield hit. Rios was absent due to back stiffness.
"This has been going on for a few days, but [Tuesday], it got stiffer," Rios said. "I don't think it's something that's going to keep me out of that lineup for more than a day or so. I'll be fine."
Taking a day off would seem to be an especially tough proposition for Rios, who is hitting .346 with 17 homers, 52 RBS and 57 runs scored in his last 66 games. Rios is hitting .318 with 18 homers, 67 RBIs and 68 runs scored overall in this bounce-back season.
"I've been hitting the ball hard consistently and I've been feeling pretty good," Rios said. "This is one of the highest points of my career."
The White Sox also have to be smart when looking at the remainder of the season's big picture. Giving a couple of days now to players with nagging injuries such as Rios, Youkilis and De Aza might help them stay fresh when the pressure truly is on during the September playoff drive.
"You want everyone to play well in September," Ventura said. "We want to win every game, but again we're looking at the long haul of this and it's difficult. That's why you have a 25-man roster. You've got to use everybody. We've got guys at ages where we need to give them a break."
"Just take a day and [Thursday] we have a day off, so that will be two days," Rios said. "Then, I'm going to come back better and I don't have to take any other days off."
Humber makes seamless return to 'pen
CHICAGO -- Philip Humber can add mind-reader to perfect game pitcher on his Major League resume. That trait showed up during the right-hander's first appearance out of the bullpen during the 2012 season on Tuesday night.
"I was already headed up to warm up before the phone rang," said Humber of his scoreless ninth, which began with a Tony Abreu leadoff double. "It's nice to have kind of been there before and thinking along with the manager and see how the game is going. You can kind of prepare yourself that way.
"It was a lot of fun. It's a different feel coming out of the bullpen as a starter. I enjoyed it."
Humber made his first two appearances for the White Sox as a reliever in 2011, but then joined the rotation for 26 starts. The right-hander was moved to the bullpen on Monday and could be used by manager Robin Ventura pretty much anywhere from long relief to occasionally working the ninth inning.
Humber is ready for the more immediate results achieved from pitching one inning instead of six or seven.
"You get a little bit more of an adrenaline rush or whatever, even though we were down three," said Humber, who has a 4.53 ERA over 26 career relief appearances. "At the same time, you know you go in and keep the score the same, we had a chance to come back there in the ninth inning.
"There a lot of different roles that I can be used as down there. It's a new challenge and I'm looking forward to it. You come to the ballpark every day knowing there's a chance you might impact the ballgame."
Third to first
Hector Santiago, who is stretching out as a starter for Triple-A Charlotte after starting 2012 as the White Sox closer, threw five scoreless innings for the Knights during Wednesday's 2-1 victory at Indianapolis. Santiago struck out three, walked three and threw 79 pitches. Santiago recently told MLB.com that he's ready to make a September spot-start for the White Sox or more likely prepared to work in long relief.
The White Sox have played 69 games decided by three runs or fewer following Wednesday's 2-1 loss. They have a 16-14 mark in one-run games, an 11-15 record in two-run games and an 8-5 log in three-run games, standing 35-34 overall.
From 2009-11, the White Sox had a 98-118 record against the American League Central. They are 25-19 within the division this year after Wednesday's loss to the Royals.
Ken "Hawk" Harrelson left early from Wednesday night's TV broadcast to tend to a family matter. White Sox analyst Steve Stone finished the game on his own.
The White Sox snapped a streak of 12 straight home games with a home run in Wednesday's 2-1 loss and are hitting .107 (3-for-28) with runners in scoring position over the last five games.
A.J. Pierzynski extended his hitting streak to 10 games with two hits, including an RBI single on Wednesday.
Brett Myers has not allowed an earned run in nine appearances with the White Sox.