Today’s game featured the kind of raggedy play you normally see at the end of a long, draining road trip.
The problem: The White Sox still have two cities and six games left on this one.
Justin Upton hit a hanging David Robertson curve way out to left for a walk-off three-run shot to cement a fifth straight loss and a Detroit sweep. Depending on how you approach it, it was a game the White Sox should’ve won going away, or one they weren’t deserving of.
The White Sox turned an unfavorable pitching matchup on its head, making Justin Verlander throw 66 pitches through two innings before he departed in the third with right groin tightness. That erased the advantage the Tigers held over the White Sox and David Holmberg.
Alas, the Sox hemorrhaged opportunities and outs all day. They left the bases loaded in the first two innings with only one run to show for it (an Avisail Garcia single in the first). That set the tone for a rather wasteful day.
Fifth inning: The White Sox had runners on the corners with one out until Yolmer Sanchez was picked off first. Then they only had a runner on third with two outs, and Tim Anderson whiffed to end the threat.
Eighth inning: The White Sox tied the game at 4 with three doubles over the first four hitters. Leury Garcia followed with a pinch-hit single that moved Kevan Smith to third, after which Rick Renteria’s chronic bunting syndrome flared up. Adam Engel tried and failed on two safety-squeeze attempts before striking out, and Melky Cabrera grounded into a force at second.
Ninth inning: After Jose Abreu walked and Avisail Garcia singled to move the go-ahead run into scoring position, Todd Frazier popped out and Sanchez grounded into a double play.
On top of that, the White Sox didn’t play the kind of defense a bullpen game required. When the Tigers started raking against Holmberg their second time through, Renteria went to Anthony Swarzak to get through the middle innings. He stranded a pair of Holmberg’s runners with a strikeout to end the fourth, then induced a double play from J.D. Martinez with the bases loaded in the fifth.
When Justin Upton’s weak grounder was placed perfectly between Sanchez and Anderson on the left side to start the sixth, the White Sox finally cracked. Chris Beck came in and tried to pick off Upton, but Abreu couldn’t snag the not-terrible throw, resulting in a two-base error.
John Hicks then won a nine-pitch battle with Beck by crushing a double to the left-center gap. The Sox intentionally walked Victor Martinez, but Hicks diminished the effectiveness of that move by swiping third when a charging Todd Frazier left nobody covering the base. He came home to score on a fielder’s choice to give the Tigers a 4-2 lead.
The White Sox’ defense failed to inspire confidence the rest of the way. Andrew Romine swiped third on Tommy Kahnle with one out in the eighth, but Romine didn’t make it home. Kahnle induced a shallow fly, then Robertson got Dixon Machado to fly out to center.
When Robertson came out to pitch the ninth, it became clear that he didn’t have his good curve, so he couldn’t afford the additional misfortune that befell him. For instance, it sure looked like an inside curve hit the knob of Nicholas Castellanos’ bat and not his hand, but Fieldin Culbreth ignored the delayed reaction and gave him first base. And when it looked like Robertson erased it with a grounder to second, a bad hop bit Sanchez. The resulting bobble meant he could only get Miguel Cabrera at first. The Sox intentionally walked J.D. Martinez to set up the double play, but Upton foiled it by blasting the third curve after missing a couple hittable pitches earlier in the at-bat.
*Frazier raised his average to .195 with a three-hit day, one of which was a solo homer to left that gave the Sox a 2-0 lead.
*Between the pickoff, the bobble and a couple of balls deflecting off his glove (one called an error), Sanchez had a rough day all over. At least when he was caught stealing to foreshadow the rest of his struggles, he found a way to make it incredible.