DETROIT -- For a brief moment Friday night, the start of what looks to be a promising 2012 White Sox season felt a little bit like the end of a disappointing 2011 campaign.
It was here in Comerica Park, from Sept. 2-4, where last season all but officially was put to rest. The Tigers swept a three-game series, with two blowouts bracketing a Miguel Cabrera walk-off against closer Sergio Santos in Game 2.
In the series opener of this three-game set, Matt Thornton (1-1) was the victim and Jhonny Peralta did the walk-off damage during a 5-4 Tigers victory before 33,615 elated fans. Sure, it's still just 26 games into the season for the White Sox (12-14), but a gut-wrenching loss like this stings just the same.
"I just hate going out there having that team on the ropes and then losing one," said White Sox starter Jake Peavy, who threw a season-high 122 pitches over 7 2/3 innings but finished with a no-decision.
"Really, it was just one of those where they battled back," White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. "You get kind of the right situation, and then you get a guy that does something with a pitch that was a little bit out over the plate."
Thornton entered in the eighth inning after Cabrera's single on Peavy's final pitch scored Don Kelly to cut the White Sox lead to 4-3. Thornton sawed off Prince Fielder with a 96-mph fastball on the inner half and got a weak grounder back to the pitcher to end the frame.
Earlier in the day, Ventura announced that Chris Sale was moving from the starting rotation into the closer's role, but he was not going to be available until Monday. So, the ninth belonged to Thornton.
Ramon Santiago laid down a bunt to start the frame, but Thornton picked up the ball with his glove and tagged Santiago. Alex Avila followed with a soft single to left, setting the stage for Peralta's first homer.
Peralta fell behind, 0-2, fouled off a third pitch and then launched a 96-mph fastball into the right-center-field stands for his second career walk-off. The highly quotable Thornton kept his comments brief but to the point following the disappointing outcome.
"He fouled off some good pitches. He drove one out," Thornton said. "I made some good pitches. He got the barrel on it and drove it out."
"The first couple pitches, I'm looking for the cutter, because the last time in Chicago, that's all he pitched to me," Peralta said. "The last ball that I hit, I knew that he threw me a couple cutters, so I think he maybe can go away [with a fastball] now. So that was a good moment to hit the ball away right there."
This ninth-inning moment overshadowed another step by Peavy made in his amazing comeback to elite starter status. Although he admitted to not having his best stuff, Peavy allowed seven hits and walked one while striking out six.
About the only question concerning Peavy was whether to let him stay in the game with two outs in the eighth and with his pitch count rising. Ventura came to the mound to talk to Peavy, focusing on his approach and letting him know he was facing Cabrera. Ventura also tried to give Peavy a little breather after needing eight pitches to retire Brennan Boesch.
As far as worries concerning Peavy and his surgically repaired lat muscle, he's treated pretty much like any other starter almost two years removed from the procedure.
"That's part of the conversation back and forth when he's in between innings," Ventura said. "He was raring to go."
"I'm going to be sore, there's no doubt about it," Peavy said. "But I felt good enough to finish the inning. I wanted to finish the inning. It's a non-issue with our coaching staff and training staff. I feel the way I feel."
Detroit (13-12) actually grabbed leads of 1-0 in the second and 2-1 in the sixth, but the red-hot Gordon Beckham helped to erase both advantages. Beckham doubled home Dayan Viciedo in the third against Detroit starter Drew Smyly, and then broke a 2-2 tie against former teammate Octavio Dotel with his second home run of the season with two outs and Brent Morel on base via an infield single in the seventh.
Beckham fell a triple short of the cycle and has eight hits in 14 at-bats during May.
"His at-bats are different. You can see some bat speed and fouling off tough pitches," said Ventura of Beckham, who is now hitting .233. "He's swinging it."
Three hits from Beckham ultimately weren't enough. Nor was Peavy's stellar battle on the mound. This game came down to Thornton vs. Peralta, and it was Peralta who handed the White Sox a third straight loss.
Now, it's up to the White Sox to fight back over the next two games and not allow this to become another series to forget in Detroit.
"Any time you blow a lead late, whether the starter or reliever does it, it's a tough loss to swallow," Peavy said. "But this bunch is resilient. It's not the first time it has happened to Matt and it's not going to be the last. He's a professional, and he'll be right back at them tomorrow.
"You are going to win some and lose some. But we've got to find a way to have a chance to try to win this series."