- Bruce Levine, Chicago baseball beat reporter
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CHICAGO -- A walk-off home run by Alex Rios in the 10th inning was just what the White Sox needed to start a nine-game homestand on the right foot.
“It’s exciting to win a game like that and everybody is waiting for you at home plate to celebrate,” Rios said after the 8-6 win over the Angels on Friday night. “It’s always good to celebrate a win; it doesn’t matter how.”
Rios had homered earlier in the game, but it was his 18th long ball of the season that gave the White Sox their 56th victory and kept them 2 1/2 games ahead of Detroit, which also won Friday evening.
Friday night’s heroics were the latest chapter in a redemptive season for the White Sox outfielder. Rios has been arguably the most consistent player on the team, putting up big offensive numbers while playing a Gold Glove-caliber right field on defense.
“He deserved a shot at going to the All-Star Game,” manager Robin Ventura said. “He knocks in big runs for us, steals bags, [plays] great defense. I am just real happy for him.”
Rios' 2011 season was his worst as a major league regular -- he hit just .227 with 13 home runs and 44 RBIs. The outfielder credits a move back to his natural position in right field as a key for his resurgent 2012 campaign.
“He is one of the most valuable players on our team,” said reliever Matt Thornton, who won his fourth game of the season by pitching a scoreless 10th inning. “That guy has worked so hard at his game the last few years, and last year he really struggled, and having the success this year is outstanding to see.”
The walk-off home run was the third of Rios’ career. During his past 10 games, Rios has homered six times and is batting .361 with 16 RBIs.
Friday's heroics were the latest chapter in Alex Rios' redemptive season.