CHICAGO, IL - SEPTEMBER 11: Paul Konerko #14 of the Chicago White Sox reacts after grounding out to end the 8th inning against the Detroit Tigers at U.S. Cellular Field on September 11, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois. The Tigers defeated the White Sox 5-3. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
It would be easy to blame Robin Ventura for this loss, and certainly his role was the most noticeable.
For starters, the White Sox offense could only muster two hits off Doug Fister over seven innings. Fortunately, they were solo homers, so at least they put runs on the board. Otherwise, Fister had his way with the White Sox lineup, retiring the last 14 men he faced. The Sox could only offer an assortment of uninspiring at-bats -- tap outs, jam shots, pop-ups, strikeouts, swinging over curveballs, getting sawed off on two-seamers, etc.
It would be harder to blame Jake Peavy, although two careless fastballs -- one to Austin Jackson, another to Miguel Cabrera -- in the fifth inning turned a 2-0 lead into a 3-2 deficit. He had to work hard, throwing 116 pitches over 5 2/3 innings, and was ultimately outpitched by Fister.
But Ventura made a couple of unorthodox decisions that didn't work out. Rather, they enabled the Tigers to put the game out of reach.
For one, he used Francisco Liriano out of the bullpen to start the eighth inning with the Sox trailing by one. His relief debut was a memorable one for the wrong reasons. Paniagua-like, even.
He bounced his first pitch into Avasail Garcia's kneecap. Two singles later, the Tigers had a 4-2 lead, runners on first and second, and nobody out. Jesse Crain pitched well enough to limit the Tigers to one run out of it, especially since the inning ended with a bases-loaded double play off the bat of Cabrera.
But that one run turned out to be huge, especially when we saw the idea Ventura had in the bottom of that inning.
Jim Leyland did the Sox a favor by lifting Fister, and the sight of Joaquin Benoit seemed to energize them. Alexei Ramirez gave the Sox just their third hit of the night with a leadoff single. He moved to second on Gordon Beckham's single, then scored on Alejandro De Aza's single to cut the lead to two with still nobody out.
And then Kevin Youkilis tried bunting. Youkilis has no sacrifice bunts in his career, and after his poor effort against Benoit -- bunt foul, bunt pulled back for strike, swing and a miss at a slider way out of the zone -- he still doesn't. That effectively killed the rally, as Dewayne Wise struck out looking on a outside-corner fastball (a drawback of Wise batting third), and Paul Konerko nubbed out to the right side.
That's the simplest version of a three-hour, 15-minute game, and it seemed like Detroit was at the plate for 170 of the 195 minutes. Seven White Sox pitchers threw 183 pitches, some worse than others. Nate Jones looked terrible starting the seventh, issuing three walks (one intentional), and getting the only out via a sacrifice bunt. Thankfully, Donnie Veal got Prince Fielder to line out softly to second, and Brett Myers got Delmon Young to ground out to short to end the inning.