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09/29/08 10:33 PM ET

Even on short rest, Floyd just too strong

Righty calms down to beat Tigers in biggest start to date

CHICAGO -- A.J. Pierzynski noticed after one inning. Gavin Floyd needed to relax, so the veteran catcher broke the ice.

"'A little nervous?'" Floyd recalled Pierzynski saying. "I kind of laughed and [joked], 'Nah.' I think I was nervous, but at the same time knew that it was time to go out there and play baseball. There's no time to be nervous."

Floyd, 25, calmed down and gave the White Sox just what they needed on Monday, forgetting a sixth-inning fielding gaffe. He gutted out six frames in the biggest start of his young career, holding the Tigers to two runs (one earned) and five hits, walking two and striking out eight. The righty helped Chicago beat Detroit, 8-2, moving it into a first-place tie with Minnesota in the American League Central to force a one-game tiebreaker at U.S. Cellular Field on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. CT on TBS and MLB.TV for a postseason berth. And he did it on three days' rest.

After throwing 101 pitches at the Metrodome his last time out, Floyd upped the count to 118 to outduel ex-White Sox right-hander Freddy Garcia.

The first inning set the tone for a grinding night. With one out, Floyd hit Gary Sheffield with a pitch and let the 39-year-old steal second. The right-hander then struck out Magglio Ordonez and got Miguel Cabrera to ground out for the escape.

After that, he and Pierzynski had a little chat.

"[Floyd] admitted he was nervous, which is good, because if you're not nervous in that situation, there's something wrong with you," said Pierzynski, a veteran of pressure-packed games. "Just admit it, because everyone is a little nervous in a game when your season is on the line. It's a good thing because it means you're alive and you're into the game. He pitched great."

The fifth and sixth frames almost did Floyd in. Three Tigers reached base to tie the game at 1 with no outs in the fifth. He then struck out Ramon Santiago and, in a heart-pounding series, fanned Curtis Granderson in an 11-pitch at-bat before getting Sheffield to ground out.

In the sixth, Cabrera doubled and scored the go-ahead run two batters later on an error by Floyd. Ryan Raburn tapped a slow roller in front of the mound, and it took Floyd two reaches to finally grab it. Feeling rushed, he airmailed his throw over first baseman Paul Konerko's head.

Detroit went up, 2-1. In years past, he could have withered. But this was the 2008 Floyd, the 17-8 Floyd.

"I kind of slipped up throwing it over to Konerko," Floyd said. "No matter what happens, you still try to keep your mental focus."

After intentionally walking Brandon Inge, he struck out Dusty Ryan to end on a positive note. The bullpen did the rest.

"Outstanding," manager Ozzie Guillen said of Floyd's performance. "I think he struggled a little bit, but he made big pitches when he needed big strikeouts. Everything he had today, I don't want to say it was the best performance, but the one with the biggest heart and stomach to go out there and do what he did."

Nick Zaccardi is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.