It's been an enjoyable season so far, but baseball took time to remind us tonight that it can still be a real bastard.
After the White Sox failed to convert on a couple of juicy scoring opportunities, Dayan Viciedo turned a flyout to right into a three-base error, which scored on a two-out bunt in the ninth.
And if that wasn't enough, Tyler Flowers put a good swing on a pitch from Joe Nathan and sent it high into the night, all the way ... to the front of the wall just left of center, where Austin Jackson caught it for a very loud out.
Hell, even the way the game became tied hurt. The Sox struck for three runs off Justin Verlander in the third inning with a variety of hits. Marcus Semien canceled the postgame show with a single through the left side, and he scored all the way from first on Adam Eaton's double to the left field corner. Then Eaton scored on Gordon Beckham's seeing-eye single through the right side. Beckham moved up to second when Torii Hunter bypassed the cutoff man, and he scored two batters later on an Adam Dunn double.
Jose Quintana gave a run back in the top of the fourth, but he appeared to be on his way through six strong innings when four consecutive two-out singles by the heart of the Detroit lineup tied the game up in a flash. Quintana stranded two runners with his 10th(!) strikeout of the night, but enough damage had already been done.
The Sox had a couple of golden opportunities to retake the lead. Alejandro De Aza hit a one-out triple in the seventh, but after a Flowers walk, Verlander struck out Semien and Eaton to escape the jam, pissing off Eaton enough to snap his bat.
One inning later, Jose Abreu hit a one-out double, and Joba Chamberlain intentionally walked Dunn to bring Viciedo to the plate. Viciedo worked a 3-0 count, fouled off a couple pitches on big hacks to make it full, and struck out looking on an outer-half fastball at the knees. Alexei Ramirez grounded into a fielder's choice to end the inning.
After the Sox carefully constructed potential rallies that didn't pay off, the Tigers lucked into their own go-ahead run when Viciedo dropped Jackson's deep -- but catchable -- fly to right with one out. Ronald Belisario, who didn't deserve the loss, came back to strike out Nick Castellanos for the second out, but backup catcher Bryan Holaday squared up on a 1-1 pitch and dropped a perfect bunt down the third base line. Belisario did all he could to make the play, but his throw was high and probably late, and longtime Sox fans had flashbacks to the 2000 ALDS against Seattle.
But the Sox' kids don't quit, and Flowers tried to give the stadium a jolt when he connected on an 0-1 fastball to center. The ball hadn't been carrying at all tonight -- the Sox had a few close calls early in the game, and Eaton ran down a Miguel Cabrera fly to right-center that usually would be a couple rows deep. Flowers didn't have the secret code, either, as Jackson was able to catch it comfortably in front of the wall, resulting in an emphatic Hawk Harrelson "DADGUMMIT!"
See? A real bastard.
*White Sox pitchers struck out 14 in defeat, while Verlander and Co. only fanned seven. That should be worth something.
*The Sox tried their own run-scoring bunt in the seventh, but Verlander's slider hung high and tight, and Semien's bunt attempt was more of a self-defense maneuver. He punched it foul.
*Ramirez had his own bunt single in the fourth to lead off the inning, but he was thrown out trying to steal second, spinning his wheels on the wet dirt. Verlander retired eight of the next nine after that to settle in.
*There was a rain delay of 21 minutes.