As the saying goes, "It's not how you start - it's how you finish." And after early embarrassment, the White Sox emerged as the more professional team tonight.
The Tigers took a 2-0 lead when the Sox gave them five outs in the third inning. The Sox took it from them when they had four outs to play with in the fifth. Neither club should be especially proud of themselves tonight, but at least the Sox were able to regain their composure.
Pitching experience made the difference in this one.
Mark Buehrle (354 career starts) had to deal with some terrible luck. In the third, his momentum was halted by a pair of two-out defensive breakdowns. Gordon Beckham dropped one pop-up with two outs, and another one fell between Alexei Ramirez and Alex Rios. They led to two unearned runs, but Buehrle held the Tigers scoreless otherwise.
He showcased his mettle in the sixth against the heart of the Detroit order. Miguel Cabrera drew a leadoff walk and Victor Martinez singled, giving the Tigers a chance to expand their lead. Buehrle came back by striking out Jhonny Peralta on an ugly check-swing, and then induced a double-play ball off the bat of Carlos Guillen to keep it a 2-1 game.
The Sox offense -- and Detroit's defense -- rewarded Buehrle for his toughness.
With two outs in the fifth, Duane Below (making his second major-league start) picked off Juan Pierre. It should have ended the inning, but Cabrera fumbled the exchange and Pierre slid into second without a throw.
Below couldn't record another out. Alexei Ramirez singled home Pierre to tie the game, and moved to second on the throw. The open base allowed Below to walk Paul Konerko intentionally, but he followed it up with an unintentional walk of Adam Dunn (he thought he had struck him out with a just-high 1-2 curve) to load the bases.
Jim Leyland pulled Below in favor of Chance Ruffin, who was making his first career appearance. Carlos Quentin greeted him by sizing up a fat slider and roping it into the left field corner for a ground-rule double. That gave the Sox a 4-2 lead, and after an ugly beginning, and when A.J. Pierzynski hit a solo blast off Ruffin to start the sixth, it turned into a comfortable night of baseball.
Jesse Crain was the only one sweating, as the Tigers made him work in the seventh. Cabrera hit a one-out solo shot to make it a 5-3 game. Two batters later, Jhonny Peralta drew a 10-pitch walk, and Carlos Guillen drew a seven-pitch one for himself, bringing the go-ahead run to the plate in the form of Ryan Raburn.
Raburn never got a chance to swing the bat. Crain's first-pitch slider bounced in the dirt and off Pierzynski's shinguard. The ball got away from him, and so Guillen ran. The problem was that it came back to Crain, who picked it up and threw to second with plenty of time to apply the tag.
Paul Konerko got the run back with his first homer of the second half, also off Ruffin, who discovered what happens when Konerko gets a fastball in a fastball count.