DETROIT -- Take a pitcher with wins in eight straight starts, a 2.38 ERA and far and away the top credentials to capture the 2011 American League Cy Young award.
Mix in eight runs of support by the fifth inning, for a game played in front of a raucous sellout of 42,352, and what do you have?
How about a 6 1/2-game deficit for the White Sox behind the American League Central-leading Tigers, following an 8-1 loss Friday night.
The aforementioned scenario played out in the opener of this all-important weekend set for the South Siders at an electric Comerica Park, with Justin Verlander further cementing not only his status as the American League's top pitcher but quite possible his Most Valuable Player candidacy.
Verlander allowed seven hits over 7 1/3 innings, including Tyler Flowers' home run leading off the eighth, fanning six and walking one, as he improved to 21-5 for the year. As for the good news for the White Sox (68-67) ...
After playing in parts of seven Minor League seasons and making 168 lower-level appearances, Shane Lindsay threw a scoreless eighth during his Major League debut. Eduardo Escobar picked up an infield single to load the bases in the eighth, and can always say his first big league hit once knocked Verlander from a game.
Flowers cleared the left-center-field bullpen with his 425-foot blast, giving him three homers. All of these are nice stories for a young team trying to finish out a season.
All that matters for the White Sox is their elimination number slipping to 20, and these next two contests against the Tigers becoming must-win situations.
"We're running out of games. We have to win," said White Sox starter John Danks, who suffered just his second loss since the All-Star break and turned in his worst effort statistically since the start of June. "We have to win a lot more than we lose, and I don't know all the numbers or games left, but definitely we have to win out against Detroit and hope for some help along the way. We put ourselves in a pretty bad position."
"I'm not going to lose my chance until I have the 'X' next to me, but the next two games are very big for us, huge," White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said. "If we are going to make it a little easier, the next two games will be very crucial. We have to come back here and fight."
Danks (6-10) appeared to be the perfect match for Verlander, carrying a 6-1 record and 2.03 ERA over his last 11 starts into the game. But those impressive numbers moved in the wrong direction on Friday, with the southpaw allowing eight runs on nine hits over 4 2/3 innings.
Detroit (76-62) jumped out with three runs in the first inning and really didn't need much more. Austin Jackson singled, moved to second on Magglio Ordonez's groundout and scored on Delmon Young's triple off center fielder Alejandro De Aza's glove. The long drive from Young appeared to be catchable, especially with De Aza making the long run to get himself into good position.
"Yes, because we see him catch that ball before, but that don't mean anything," said Guillen of whether De Aza could have made that play. "I think that was a pretty tough play. He makes the play and it's a nice play. He doesn't and it's a triple."
Miguel Cabrera singled home Young, picked up his second stolen base of the season and then scored on Alex Avila's bloop single down the left-field line. Before Verlander had thrown 10 pitches, he had a decent cushion.
"To be totally honest with you, there was one ball hit hard, and I got what I was trying to get -- some ground balls and a jam shot to Avila," said Danks, who threw 62 of his 91 pitches for strikes, but allowed all four of his first-inning hits when he was ahead in the count. "They were hitting them the way I wanted to hit them, with the exception of Delmon's ball. They just hit them in a good place."
Five more runs crossed the plate in the fifth off Danks and Josh Kinney, courtesy of Jackson's two-run blast to left-center and Jhonny Peralta's two-out, three-run double.
A brief sign of White Sox life appeared in the eighth, when they loaded the bases with one out on Brent Morel's double and singles from Juan Pierre and Escobar, forcing Jim Leyland to go to setup man Joaquin Benoit. But Paul Konerko flew out to left and A.J. Pierzynski lined out to Cabrera at first to end the seedlings of a rally.
With precious little room for error, two straight losses for the White Sox haven't helped their late-season division title push. Two more losses to the Tigers and the White Sox playoff hopes move to life support, and even one loss makes the situation difficult.
Guillen believes the White Sox won't go down without some sort of fight.
"Tonight, they knew they were going to fight against a champ and [if] you don't bring your best gloves to the ring, you are going to lose," Guillen said. "But they are fighting all the way to the end. We got bases loaded. We get Verlander out of there. We just couldn't win the fight."
"This was a premier matchup, in my opinion," Leyland said. "Ozzie had Danks ready for us, and we had Justin ready for them. Fortunately tonight, we got the best of it."