White Sox stifled by Verlander
Contreras solid until seventh, when Tigers add cushion
DETROIT -- For one brief moment on Friday afternoon at Comerica Park, the White Sox looked as if they were going to find a little ninth-inning magic for the second straight day.
There was no miraculous catch with a perfect game on the line in this instance. Placido Polanco's single with one out in the first off of Jose Contreras erased the chance for that piece of history repeating itself.
Instead, in this battle for temporary American League Central supremacy between the Tigers and White Sox, the South Siders were putting a charge into Detroit ace Justin Verlander. Trailing by four, A.J. Pierzynski, Carlos Quentin and Chris Getz opened the final at-bats with solid singles to load the bases with nobody out.
And then, the rally faded. Gordon Beckham grounded into a double play, from Verlander to catcher Gerald Laird to first baseman Miguel Cabrera, and Dewayne Wise grounded out to shortstop Adam Everett to finish off Detroit's 5-1 victory in Game 1 of this split doubleheader to begin a four-game set in Motown. The Tigers (50-44) will carry a one-game lead into the nightcap, with Bartolo Colon scheduled to take the mound for the White Sox (50-46).
Beckham, who finished 0-for-3 with a sacrifice fly, seemed to make solid contact on the pitch from Verlander. But the big right-hander snared the grounder and quickly snuffed out the uprising.
"Just a rough day for me," said the forthright Beckham, who is now hitting .285. "I saw him OK. I guess I just didn't have a good feel. I guess I didn't get a good pitch to hit."
"Verlander threw the ball well," White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said. "We had a couple of chances to score, but we missed our chances. We had a great opportunity to score a couple of times and we didn't."
Those opportunities came primarily in the second and third innings. In the second, Pierzynski (2-for-4) singled with two outs and Quentin (2-for-3) and Getz coaxed back-to-back walks to load the bases. Beckham's fielder's choice grounder to Everett ended the frame. In the third, Wise led off with a hustle double to right, but he never advanced past second.
Pierzynski scored the only run off Verlander (11-5) after reaching on Cabrera's throwing error to open the fourth. Verlander's complete-game effort was his third this season and second against the White Sox. Even at 127 pitches in the ninth inning, Verlander was still bringing his fastball at close to 100 mph, according to the Comerica Field scoreboard.
"There's not much you can do when the guy is still throwing 99 [mph] at 120 pitches," said Contreras through interpreter Ozney Guillen.
Verlander struck out four and walked four in the victory.
With a little luck, Contreras (4-9) would have matched Verlander just about pitch-for-pitch. Contreras yielded four runs on nine hits over 6 2/3 innings, but his eight strikeouts and one walk served as a better indication as to the right-hander's effectiveness.
Ryan Raburn's bloop double in the fourth scored Cabrera with the go-ahead run, and Placido Polanco (3-for-3) dropped in another run-scoring single down the right-field line during a two-run seventh. Contreras slipped to 1-7 with a 7.12 ERA in his past 10 starts against the Tigers.
"It's incredible," Contreras said. "They were hitting it at the right spots at the right time. Everything felt good. I was throwing my pitches where I wanted them."
"He has a lot of movement on the ball, and when he misses, he doesn't miss by much," said Polanco of Contreras. "It's tough [to hit him]."
Jim Leyland's crew also picked up three stolen bases, while Chicago's defense committed three errors -- giving the club three or more in a game for the fourth time this season. The White Sox finished 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position, so it wasn't exactly a perfect effort.
Yet, there they were in the ninth, bases loaded and nobody out, with a chance to make a different sort of history. On this afternoon, Verlander was not a willing participant.
"I wasn't trying to get a comebacker right there," said Verlander of Beckham's double-play grounder. "I was trying to strike him out. That's just my mentality. But I made the pitch in the right spot, and he hit it in the right spot. He got decent wood on it. It was just hit in the perfect spot for me to make a play."
"If I get a hit in the second, the whole game is different," Beckham said. "It was one of those days. Just a rough start to the day."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.