Detroit's Justin Verlander (15-8) finally proved to be ace kryptonite to the South Siders' winning ways during a 9-1 beatdown of the White Sox on Tuesday night at Comerica Park. That White Sox starter Freddy Garcia exited after two innings with renewed stiffness in his back didn't help the visitors' cause.
All good things eventually come to an end, and the White Sox (77-61) certainly didn't expect to win out this year or post an unblemished 10-0 mark on the road against the Indians, Red Sox and Tigers. With the way the Twins (82-57) are rolling, though, the White Sox almost have to be perfect.
The White Sox left home on Aug. 29 trailing by 4 1/2 games in the American League Central. Their 7-1 record since that departure has done nothing more than take eight games off the schedule, leaving them the exact same 4 1/2 games back following Minnesota's 10-3 thrashing of the Royals on Tuesday.
Not exactly deflating numbers for their postseason push, but certainly disappointing.
"Of course," said White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski, one of the few bright spots Tuesday with two hits, extending his hitting streak to 14 games. "Like I said yesterday, we won seven games in a row, and the only game we picked up was the day we didn't play and they lost.
"What can you do? You go out and play as hard as we can. Nobody is giving up. Nobody is panicking."
Full-out panic has been avoided by the White Sox because they still have three head-to-head games remaining with the Twins, beginning one week from tonight at U.S. Cellular Field. A six- or seven-game deficit entering that series certainly would make matters more difficult.
Going without Garcia (11-6) for a start or two won't be a plus either, although Lucas Harrell pitched fairly well in relief on Tuesday, giving up four unearned runs in four innings. Garcia exited his start last Wednesday in Cleveland after four innings due to the same back issue, but only made it through one Johnny Damon home run, two innings and 33 pitches at Comerica Park.
"I have no idea what I've got," said Garcia of the recurring problem. "I was warming in the bullpen fine, and the game [was] different. When you throw in the bullpen, you go 70 percent. But when you go in the game, you want to go harder. Obviously, I wasn't able to do it."
"You could tell Freddy wasn't quite right," said Detroit manager Jim Leyland, who had Garcia pitch for him in 2008. "I was a little worried, because they brought in a guy that we hadn't seen before. But we were able to add on a couple runs."
Detroit got to Harrell in the third, through a rally started by a Mark Kotsay error committed at first base on Austin Jackson's grounder. Don Kelly, Brennan Boesch and Jhonny Peralta came through with run-scoring hits during the rally, as Peralta's two-run double raised the lead to 6-1.
Brandon Inge's three-run home run off Carlos Torres in the eighth produced the final totals. Harrell fanned two and walked two unintentionally during his time on the mound.
"Lucas did a good job," Pierzynski said. "He gave us innings, which we needed. He threw the ball well. We should have been out of the one inning, with no runs, no damage. He probably could have finished the game for us if that happens.
"But you know, he threw the ball well. Freddy, it's a shame that happened to him again. You've got to battle. We did that against Verlander and we had chances. We scored that run and thought we got back in it and then gave up the four-spot."
Verlander's pitch total was pushed up to 121 over seven innings by patient White Sox hitters. But the only run the South Siders could muster was the one mentioned by Pierzynski, when Juan Pierre doubled and Omar Vizquel singled with one out in the third.
Other than that frame, the White Sox didn't put together a major challenge until the eighth, when Mark Teahen hit into a double play off of Robbie Weinhardt with runners on first and second.
"[Down] 6-1 with Verlander, that's a long way to get there, a deep hole to try and get [out] from," White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said.
Paul Konerko missed his second straight game with a stiff back, although he was expected to return on Wednesday. Gordon Beckham was scratched prior to Tuesday's loss with further soreness in his right hand, and Manny Ramirez left in the eighth after being hit by a pitch for the second time in the game.
Ramirez's injury was not a concern. Garcia's might be more of an issue. Of course, everything becomes worrisome for the White Sox with the Twins' lead widening even in the face of a 7-1 run.
"These things happen and you are not going to win every game," Pierzynski said. "We have to get it back going tomorrow."
"Well, I will take 7-1 again and see what happens," Guillen said. "That's part of the game. We all know that Minnesota is playing well now. They've got a good ballclub, but like I said, I will take 7-1 and take a chance with that."