Justin Verlander has now won his last seven starts against the White Sox, and the eighth inning showed why knocking him down is such a tall task.
Tied 2-2 in the bottom of the eighth, Brent Morel reached with a leadoff single and advanced to second on a Juan Pierre sac bunt. Alexei Ramirez shot a single through the left side, but Morel hesitated briefly to make sure it went through. It was enough of a delay for Jeff Cox to hold him, even though Morel had rounded third before Andy Dirks had come up with the ball in left.
I'm not saying it was a wrong call, but it was conservative. But hindsight made it look worse.
Verlander then engaged in a battle with Carlos Quentin, and thought he struck him out with a 2-2 pitch in on the hands. He didn't get it, and he stared in at home to register his disapproval. Then he put his frustration into the next pitch -- knee-high, outside corner, 100 mph. Quentin could only look, and that was two outs.
For his final act, Verlander snared an A.J. Pierzynski grounder up the middle while on his back, then made the easy toss to first for the third out to preserve the tie.
Jesse Crain was thisclose to pulling off the same escape act. He allowed a leadoff triple to Austin Jackson on a 2-0 fastball (the ball bounced off the wall and past Alex Rios on the rebound), but got a pop-up and a strikeout to put himself on the precipice of true relief.
He even had Miguel Cabrera down 1-2. Problem was, he threw him a strike when Cabrera had chased earlier pitches in the dirt. This one was a thigh-high slider, outer half. Since Cabrera had only seen away, away, away, he knew where he was looking, and he correctly deposited the ball over the right-field fence.
That put Verlander in the position for the win, and Jose Valverde closed it down after pitching around a leadoff walk.
The bright side is that this could've been far worse. Edwin Jackson spotted the Tigers two runs (a Brennan Boesch two-run shot) and 40 pitches in the first inning. He did not have a putaway pitch, but the Tigers couldn't put Jackson away, either.
The Tigers followed up Boesch's homer by putting runners on second and third with one out, but Jackson got a pop-up and a groundout around a bases-loading walk to end the inning. They blew a similar situation in the fourth inning, and Jackson settled down enough to pitch a relatively drama-free fifth and sixth for the quality start.
Gordon Beckham rewarded him in the fifth inning by getting him off the hook -- and he also bailed out Adam Dunn as well.
Brent Lillibridge led off that inning with a shot off Verlander's leg. Verlander scrambled and tried making the throw to first, but he rushed it and let it sail into foul territory down the right-field line. Lillibridge made it all the way to third.
Dunn struck out, but Beckham followed up with one pitch in mind -- and Verlander threw the one he was looking for. Beckham got down on a first-pitch curve and knocked it over the left-field wall to tie the game.
Dunn and Rios only encouraged the boo-birds. Dunn struck out in his first three at-bats, and should have grounded into a game-ending double play. Jhonny Peralta rushed the throw and pulled Cabrera off the bag to keep the Sox's hopes alive.
Meanwhile, double plays plagued Rios. He bounced into two of them to end the fourth and sixth innings, making it 29 in the last calendar year.