"Close," manager Alan Trammell said, "but there's no consolation in that."
Consolation passed up many Tigers long ago.
"It [stinks] when Bondo goes out and pitches his heart out," a disappointed Dmitri Young said, "and all we come out with is a frickin' 'L'."
Take away two of the Tigers' one-run losses and make them wins, and Detroit would be a .500 team. But then, had the Tigers fell around break-even in their one-run contests last year, they would've finished on the cusp of .500 with 79-80 wins instead of 72.
Jeremy Bonderman scattered two runs over his first six innings before giving up back-to-back singles to start the seventh. A Juan Uribe sacrifice on Bonderman's 101st pitch of the afternoon moved runners to second and third and brought up the left-handed hitting Podsednik.
Trammell, in turn, went with his left-handed specialist. Walker had allowed a .220 average to left-handed hitters for his career and had held them to 1-for-10 so far this season. Podsednik, in turn, was a .251 career hitter against left-handers compared to .271 vs. righties.
"I thought Walker would be the guy at least for Podsednik to have a different look," Trammell said.
Podsednik's performance at the plate this year, however, has flipped those trends. He entered that at-bat 5-for-9 against lefties compared to 6-for-31 off right-handers. After Walker missed on his first two pitches, Podsednik's trend continued. He sent a ground ball past a diving Young and through the right side.
Trammell did not have the infield in, and he said afterwards he was willing to concede the tying run. "I'm going to give them the run," he said, "but I'm hoping maybe with a flip swing, he hits one to Dmitri or he goes the other way and hits one to Brandon [Inge].
"We've got that part covered. But falling behind 2-0, that put him in the driver's seat."
Had Walker retired Podsednik, Trammell would've gone to Kyle Farnsworth, who was also warming up. Instead, Walker finished out the inning and Farnsworth worked the eighth.
Young estimated he missed the deciding ground ball by a foot or two. But the way the game was going, neither rolls nor bounces were playing Detroit's way.
Bonderman (2-2) retired 12 consecutive batters until Carl Everett doubled leading off the fifth. After Paul Konerko worked the count full, he hit what looked like a routine hopper to shortstop Carlos Guillen. Once the ball hit the dirt, it took such an odd hop that it flew over Guillen, who was expecting it below his knees. The RBI single drew the White Sox within one.
"I hate to make excuses," Trammell said, "but right now, Konerko gets that bad-hop base hit. How do you account for things like that? There's no way to account for them. But it's just part of baseball. You have to deal with them.
"I've said it 100 times, and I'll say it 100 more. When it gets like this, you've just got to get tougher and keep battling, and good things will happen. It's just the way it has to be. That's really the only answer for us, to keep battling."
For the most part, they had. Bonderman allowed two hits and two walks in the first inning, including a run-scoring base on balls to Jermaine Dye, before settling down. He recovered from Konerko's bad-hop single to induce a double play grounder from Dye, erasing the would-be tying run.
"I thought I went out and threw a good game," Bonderman said. "They got a couple hits off me, and it ended up going the other way."
The eccentricities continued once the White Sox grabbed the lead. After Inge drew a leadoff walk off Dustin Hermanson in the eighth, Guillen squared around to lay down a sacrifice bunt. He fouled off two of those before lacing a single through the left side.
The percentages from there favored the Tigers. Ivan Rodriguez stepped to the plate 3-for-7 with two doubles for his career against Hermanson, who fell behind on a 2-0 count before Rodriguez popped up to center.
That brought up Young, 6-for-24 lifetime against Hermanson with two home runs. Hermanson escaped with an inning-ending double play grounder to second.
"He put the ball right there," Young said, "and I got the top of it. Obviously this is a game of inches, and we got the wrong inch."