If you wanted to pick a pitching matchup for the White Sox to jump on and grab the one win they needed to leave town with a two-game AL Central lead...it wouldn't be the one with Justin Verlander in it.
Fear of the reigning AL MVP subsided momentarily when Alejandro De Aza led off Sunday's game by homering in his first plate appearance back from the disabled list, but that wound up acting as....well....Matt said it best:
The De Aza HR was like Hester's opening kick off return in the Super Bowl
— Matt Adams (@2012WhiteSox) September 3, 2012
Any traces of Verlander's struggles against Kansas City were absent. He had top velocity that revved up as the night wore on, he had feel of his changeup and curve, his 11 strikeouts over eight innings didn't even properly reflect the number of ugly swings generated, and it was every bit the hopeless enterprise a game versus peak-performance Verlander can be.
That's certainly not an insult to Sale, though there was room for anxiety there with his diminished velocity earlier in the week. He didn't reach 94 mph all night, but was hitting 93 in the 6th after starting the game out at 89 mph.
Unfortunately, those 93 mph fastballs came after Sale was angered by a three-run home run he gave up to Delmon Young, who saw a little too much of his slider-heavy approach. Chris wasn't getting the corners called for him, walked four while trying to work primarily with breaking pitches, but stranded runners in scoring position in the 2nd and 4th. And yet, with all those accomplishment, Brennan Boesch and Young--two of the lesser lights in the Detroit batting order--burnt him for long balls.
A late rally against the forever interesting Jose Valverde was one Austin Jackson misread of an Orlando Hudson fly ball from trying the game, but alas.
Tigers 4, White Sox 2
Chris Sale - 6 IP, 5 H, 4 ER, 4 BB, 7 K, 2 HR, 106 pitches - You can simulatneously admire his strategy to work around not having his big fastball, and still worry about him. It's allowed.
Justin Verlander - 8 IP, 4 H, ER, 2 BB, 11 K, HR, 124 pitches - What a jerk.
No one had a multi-hit night. Tyler Flowers registering as Verlander's only two walks on the night seems mildly remarkable, and Dan Johnson is now hitting .500.
Throwing Delmon Young junk out of the zone and watching him flail at it seemed like a plan both ingenious and hilarious. And it remained so right up until he Vladimir Guerrero'd a shoe-height slider over the left field wall with Cabrera and Fielder already on base in 6th. With the offense on snooze all weekend, a 4-1 advantage wound up being the ballgame.
Things Would Be Different If...
A rested Sale would have helped, someone having a bead on Verlander was very much needed, but with neither of those in play....
REALLY GLAD THEY DIDN'T TRY BUNTING ON THE TUBBY GUY WITH ONE LEG SO THAT COULD HAPPEN.
— South Side Sox (@SouthSideSox) September 3, 2012
...bunting at Cabrera might have been something to try
Sale pitching semi-effectively with reduced velocity and only getting beat on a bad-ball home run was a source of encouragement, but this was otherwise just as bad as the other two efforts that brought the Sox to the point of losing the AL Central advantage they had held onto since....the last awful Detroit series. Bad memories of emphatic sweeps at the hands of Minnesota and Detroit in the last two years, have been officially summoned.
Alejandro De Aza appears to be fully healthy, which will be useful, since the White Sox need to straight-up outplay the Detroit Tigers over the final month.
Team Record: 72-61, Tied for 1st place