CHICAGO -- If a snapshot was sought out to capture the White Sox frustration over Sunday's 7-3 loss to the Tigers at U.S. Cellular Field, look no further than the last at-bat of the seventh inning.
Paul Konerko had drawn a two-out walk against reliever Al Alburquerque, and catcher A.J. Pierzynski had worked the count full against the right-hander. With the White Sox trailing by four, they needed every baserunner possible.
Pierzynski ended up swinging at what looked like ball four and striking out to end the frame. The driven catcher, who entered this contest hitting .329 over his last 21 games, also missed out on opportunities with runners on second and third and one out in the first and fifth innings.
After this strikeout, Pierzynski took two steps toward the dugout and forcefully spiked his bat into the ground. But the displeasure for the White Sox (28-33) certainly didn't come from just this loss.
They remained seven games behind the American League Central leaders from Cleveland, despite the Indians losing four straight at home to the Rangers. The White Sox lost for the fifth time in six games this season to the Tigers (31-27), who moved 4 1/2 games ahead of the third-place White Sox.
And the momentum gained from sweeping three games at Fenway Park earlier this week was partially washed away by two straight Detroit wins. The White Sox are pushing hard to get into contention, but simply can't find any real consistency.
"I wish we had been more consistent, to be honest with you," said White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen, after his team lost its first home series since May 3-4 against the Twins. "If we could have one week, a week and a half streak going on and put more wins together, that would be better.
"We've been playing that way for a long time, up and down, cold, hot, cold, hot. We need more consistency out of the players."
As Guillen pointed out, Sunday's loss wasn't so much about a poorly played game as it was centered on a troublesome fourth inning. The White Sox held a 2-0 lead behind Jake Peavy (2-1), who had retired the first nine Tigers.
Austin Jackson singled to open the fourth, but Don Kelly hit what looked like a double-play grounder to first baseman Paul Konerko two pitches later. Konerko made a nice pickup of the hard grounder and fired a perfect strike to shortstop Alexei Ramirez, but Ramirez's relay throw pulled Konerko off the base and he was unable to tag Kelly.
Peavy walked Brennan Boesch and Miguel Cabrera, with Cabrera's at-bat covering 13 pitches. Victor Martinez's fly ball to right would have been the inning's third out if the double play was turned, but instead it became a sacrifice fly.
Andy Dirks doubled home a run and Alex Avila drew a walk to reload the bases. Ryan Raburn followed with his third-career grand slam on the first pitch to cap off the six-run frame.
This six-run inning tied a career high for Peavy, marking the most runs he's given up in a single frame since allowing six to the Braves in a 10-5 loss on July 16, 2006, with the Padres. Raburn was 3-for-26 with nine strikeouts when hitting with two outs and runners in scoring position before hitting the grand slam.
Raburn's struggles gave him a feeling Peavy would try to pitch around Avila with the game tied and first base open.
"Alex has been swinging the bat great all year, and I haven't. I think we would've done the same thing in that situation," Raburn said. "I just wanted to be aggressive with a strike and was able to get a good pitch and put the barrel on it."
There was no fifth inning for Peavy, who exited with a strained right groin, which flared up when he broke to cover first on Kelly's ground ball to Konerko. Add Peavy's injury to the list of season-long frustrations experienced by the White Sox.
"I've seen that a lot," said Detroit starting pitcher Brad Penny of Peavy's injury. "I hate to see that. The guy has worked his butt off to get back. That team is better when Peavy's in there."
"When we got the opportunity, we came up with a big one," said Detroit manager Jim Leyland of the rally against Peavy. "It didn't start off too good, but it ended up pretty good."
Not so much for the White Sox.
Gordon Beckham homered for the second straight game, connecting against Penny (5-4) in the fourth, and Konerko had two doubles and drove in a run in his return after missing two games due to a procedure performed to flush out a bone chip in his left wrist Friday. The White Sox also did better against Penny than they did on April 23, when he gave up one slightly disputed hit over seven innings.
Better doesn't equal excellence, on this occasion. If the White Sox intend to make this 2011 AL Central race a typical down-to-the-wire battle, they need to trade in their ongoing frustration for some sort of winning streak.
"Where we're at now, we hope it comes down to the end," Konerko said. "Detroit is a good, solid team and they've got those two horses [Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer] in the rotation. And I think Cleveland is for real.
"We're not doing it right now. We are trying, we are pushing. We are winning some games here and there, but we have to at some point make a run."