Big innings do damage in White Sox win
Four in the third and three in the fifth lead to win over Tigers
DETROIT -- One universal thought permeated throughout the White Sox clubhouse following their edge-of-your-seat, 7-6 victory on Saturday before the largest single-game attendance in Comerica Park history of 45,280.
Even if the White Sox win again on Sunday afternoon, completing the three-game sweep and dropping the Tigers to a distant 8 1/2 games out of first, the American League Central will not become a two-team race.
"No. Never will," White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said. "You still have two months of baseball, and I still believe those guys have enough talent to compete."
"It's just a little breathing room," said White Sox reliever Octavio Dotel, whose 14th hold on Saturday just might have been his biggest one this year. "We can't forget about them because we know what they have and what type of players they have. We can't be comfortable, even if we sweep them."
Dotel made it possible for the White Sox (59-43) to even envision a sweep, entering the game in the seventh to protect a 7-5 lead with runners on first and third and two outs. Curtis Granderson promptly swiped second base and Placido Polanco walked, loading the bases.
With Carlos Guillen at the plate, Dotel uncorked a wild pitch to score Edgar Renteria and move the go-ahead run into scoring position. But an eight-pitch battle with Guillen resulted in a swinging third strike, stranding the two runners.
Magglio Ordonez led off the eighth with a double, but he never moved. Miguel Cabrera struck out swinging, Gary Sheffield popped out to Alexei Ramirez and Marcus Thames struck out swinging, sending Dotel from the mound in a pumped up frenzy.
"That's the reason we win this game, in my opinion," said Guillen of Dotel's clutch work.
"Personally, I get happy and pumped up when we are winning against those guys," Dotel said. "It's like winning the World Series for me, winning against them. When you get successful against guys like Cabrera, Magglio and Sheffield, who can turn the game the other way any time, you really have to be happy."
The White Sox have to be happy how they handled Justin Verlander (8-10) once again. Actually, the first pitch delivered by Verlander was a sign of bad things to come, moving high and inside on White Sox shortstop Orlando Cabrera, causing the leadoff hitter to duck for cover. Detroit's ace didn't seem to improve much with his location or success rate during the rest of his abbreviated night of work.
Verlander allowed seven earned runs on nine hits over four-plus innings, dropping the right-hander to 2-7 with a 6.03 ERA over 12 career games against the White Sox. Two big innings did the job, as the White Sox scored four in the third and three in the fifth after the Tigers (52-51) had tied the game at 4.
Carlos Quentin and Jermaine Dye launched back-to-back home runs during the four-run third. Quentin's two-run shot was his AL-best 27th, while it was No. 23 for Dye. Yet, Guillen seemed more impressed by Verlander's 110 pitches thrown when he exited after the first three White Sox hitters reached base safely in the fifth.
"When he's on, he's unhittable. He has one of the best arms in the [AL]," Guillen said. "We just tried to be patient and get the best pitches to hit."
"There's really no holes in their lineup," Verlander said. "Even the guys in the bottom of the lineup can hurt you. You have to be pretty much locked in the entire game. There's no letdowns. They have a lineup like ours, where if you make mistakes, they're going to hurt you."
John Danks (8-4) fought through six innings, yielding five runs on eight hits. He struck out five and minimized the damage by not issuing a walk. Danks was picked up by a 10-hit attack, along with great relief work from not only Dotel, but also closer Bobby Jenks.
"You can't shoot yourself in the foot against this lineup," said Danks, referring to his walk-free night. "I wanted to make them put the ball in play, and I basically did that. There were a couple of pitches I would like back and some well-placed hits on their part. Otherwise, I thought I threw it well."
A two-out Granderson double to left put a temporary crimp in Jenks' quest for save No. 21. But Polanco went down swinging, maintaining the 3 1/2-game lead for the White Sox over the Twins.
Of greater note on Sunday becomes the chance for the White Sox to knock the Tigers down another rung. According to the White Sox, though, the Tigers might be bloodied, but they are too talented not to pick themselves back up over the season's final two months.
"This is not going to be easy," Guillen said. "I've been saying that for a while. Not in this division."
"They have a great lineup and a great pitching staff," added Cabrera of Detroit. "And there are a lot of games left."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.