- Scott Powers, Reporter
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“I really don’t want to talk about last year,” Rios said on Wednesday. “We’re having a lot of fun this year, and I’d rather focus on what we’re doing right now.”
He’s earned that right.
A year ago, he hit a career-low .227 with 13 home runs and 44 RBIs. A year later, he’s nearly doubled his numbers. With two more home runs and a career-high six RBIs in Wednesday’s 6-2 win over the Minnesota Twins, Rios is now hitting .298 with 22 homers and 82 RBIs.
It was just the type of performance the White Sox needed on Wednesday. Coming off an 18-9 loss on Tuesday, the White Sox couldn’t afford to drop a series to the Twins during a pennant race. With Wednesday’s win, the White Sox assured themselves at least a one-game advantage on the Detroit Tigers in the American League Central going into Friday.
White Sox manager Robin Ventura has come to expect such games from Rios, but he was still pleased to have it again. Rios sparked the White Sox early with a grand slam in the first inning and added a two-run shot in the sixth.
“He’s been consistent all year long,” Ventura said. “He’s had some big hits for us; outfield, same thing. He’s made great plays in the outfield. He runs the bases great. It’s a good day for him to come in here after last night you get waxed and come in and get some (runs) early.”
Being a first-year manager, Ventura can’t speak to Rios’ play last year, but he knows what he’s seen this season.
“All I know is this year,” Ventura said. “He’s a great player. He brings it every day. He never wants out. He’s a great team guy. I’m just seeing what’s in front of me. He’s a big reason why we’re here in this position. That’s all that really matters to me and these guys in here -- what’s he’s bringing right now.”
Up until Wednesday, Rios hadn’t been exactly tearing it up lately, though. He had two hits in his previous 19 at-bats, had four RBIs over his last 12 games and hadn’t homered since Aug. 22.
Last season, that cold streak may have continued. This year, he was confident he would turn it back around.
“You get through periods of times like this,” Rios said. “You have to stay calm and not lose your confidence and wait until it comes back. Hopefully when it comes back, you can stay with it.”
So what does a bounce-back year mean to Rios? He says nothing unless something else comes with it.
“If we win, it’s going to mean a lot to me,” Rios said. “If not, it’s just going to be another year. Hopefully, we overall as a team we do well and we can make it to what our goal is, and that’s go to the playoffs. Let’s see.”
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5hRandy Jennings, Special to ESPN.com