The White Sox are not going to pound out three or four home runs and score double-digit runs in every remaining game on the schedule, despite some evidence to the contrary during the last seven straight victories at U.S. Cellular Field.
They did knock out 12 hits during Tuesday's series opener against the Tigers, marking the ninth straight time in June that the South Siders have finished with at least 11 hits in a contest. But against Nate Robertson (4-6) and two relievers, the White Sox couldn't come up with that definitive hit to get them over the hump during a 6-4 loss before 38,295 in Detroit.
Despite watching their seven-game victory stretch come to a close and losing for the fourth straight time on the road, the White Sox (37-27) maintained their 6 1/2-game lead over Minnesota in the American League Central.
Don't call this setback a letdown, coming on the heels of the White Sox four-game demolition of the Twins. In fact, the visitors' fight right down to the final at-bat against closer Todd Jones, who earned his 11th save, serves as an extension of what the White Sox built during this past week.
"Just one or two hits away from getting back into the game," said White Sox right fielder Jermaine Dye, who joined Joe Crede as the only White Sox starters without a hit. "We still put up double-digit hits, and we battled. We just couldn't scratch that big hit across."
"When you have that many hits in a game, it means you have good at-bats," White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen added. "But you won't win every one."
Jose Contreras (6-4) suffered the loss, ending a string of four straight victories and six consecutive starts without a defeat. Contreras had a 4-0 record and 1.50 ERA during his unbeaten streak.
In his second June trip to the mound, Contreras yielded six runs on 13 hits over six-plus innings -- season highs in both categories. The 13 hits actually matched a career high. Tuesday's start also marked the first time Contreras gave up more than two runs in a game since May 4, the big right-hander's last loss in Toronto.
By pure statistical results, it was Contreras' worst start of the year. He also has allowed 10 earned runs on 23 hits over 11-plus innings against Detroit this season, but Tuesday's loss had a different feel than his season-opening no-decision.
"With that first time, I didn't feel good and I wasn't confident," said Contreras through interpreter Ozney Guillen, speaking of his 2008 debut on April 4 at Comerica Park. "I felt strong going into today, really stronger than a couple of days before. I left everything high and they hit it.
"Any Major League team you pitch against, if you leave the [pitches] high, they will hit it," Contreras added.
Detroit built a 5-2 lead after six innings behind a three-run fifth, but the White Sox rallied with one in the seventh on Alexei Ramirez's run-scoring groundout and one in the eighth, when A.J. Pierzynski (2-for-3, now hitting .302) scored on Freddy Dolsi's balk. A bigger rally in the eighth inning was snuffed out when Brent Clevlen threw out Carlos Quentin at the plate on Jim Thome's one-out single to left.
Thome led the White Sox attack, which featured four players with at least two hits, with three hits to raise his average to .222. Thome's output included his 13th home run, as the second-inning blast raised his career total to 520, tying Thome with Frank Thomas for 18th on the all-time list.
Nick Swisher, who extended his hitting streak to nine, walked to open the ninth against Jones. He was quickly erased on Crede's double play, but Ramirez's single gave the White Sox one more chance before Orlando Cabrera flew out to left to end the game.
A sizeable offensive output should happen more often than not for a White Sox attack that currently looks loaded, from one through nine. It just won't happen on a daily basis. If they are going to go down, though, the White Sox at least went down with a chance to win against Detroit.
So, forget about any talk of a letdown after seven straight wins.
"Not really. It's just one game," Contreras said. "The hitting and pitching are there. This team battles until the end, and we are in first for that reason."
"I'll bet you if we get 13 or 14 hits tomorrow, we have a chance to be in the game," Guillen added. "Give yourself a chance to have good at-bats, and that's really all you can ask."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less