CHICAGO -- One of the worst losses in Robin Ventura's 37-game managerial tenure almost became one of the greatest victories in recent memory at U.S. Cellular Field.
Detroit brought a four-run lead into the ninth inning of its 10-8 victory over the White Sox on Tuesday afternoon, and Tigers closer Jose Valverde retired Gordon Beckham on a popup to first baseman Prince Fielder and then struck out Adam Dunn. The White Sox (17-20) had blown a six-run lead due to an eight-run Detroit sixth and seemed about ready to carry this setback with them on their ensuing flight to Anaheim.
Five batters later, and the White Sox were down by just two with runners on second and third and Dayan Viciedo at the plate against Octavio Dotel. Dotel was rushed into the contest when Valverde left with a stiff lower back and a 3-1 count to Alex Rios.
Viciedo took the first Dotel pitch just outside the zone, fouled off a cutter and then drove the next pitch toward the right-field wall. As the ball continued to carry, it looked more and more as if the White Sox might survive this up-and-down affair.
But right fielder Brennan Boesch made the catch about five feet from the wall, with White Sox fans screaming behind the fence, and the Tigers (18-18) had avenged Monday's loss to the South Siders. The comeback showed the grit of this White Sox team, but grit doesn't count in the win column.
"When he hit it, I definitely thought it had a chance," said White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski, whose ninth-inning double off Valverde set up Alexei Ramirez's two-run double, completed a 5-for-5 afternoon and marked his second career five-hit effort. "It's nice to see him going the other way, Alexei going the other way for a hit.
"It's always nice when you have a comeback like that, but you'd like to win the game instead of falling just a couple feet short. We had a nice comeback yesterday and it would have been nice to get the win today."
In the matter of 1 1/3 innings earlier in the loss, the White Sox went from rout to regret. They entered the sixth inning carrying a 6-0 lead, having knocked Detroit starter Max Scherzer from the game. Jake Peavy, who had been as dominant as any American League starter since the start of the season, was on the mound and had only allowed five hits, making this victory look as certain as 30-degree temperatures in Chicago in April even with the back of the White Sox bullpen a bit overused of late.
Then, it all quickly fell apart.
"Things got ugly there in a hurry," said Peavy, who was charged with six runs on nine hits over 5 1/3 innings. "It's a little bit of everything with me. I've just got to be more under control and not let my emotions get the best of me there."
Peavy admitted to losing a little bit of control after Andy Dirks singled, Miguel Cabrera homered and Prince Fielder dumped in a double to left. The right-hander retired Alex Avila on a grounder back to the mound, but Peavy hit Boesch with a pitch, gave up a three-run homer to Ryan Raburn and walked Jhonny Peralta before Ventura replaced him with Will Ohman.
The pitch to Cabrera was a sinker in that wasn't even a strike, but Cabrera still hit it a long way.
"We jumped him real quick," said Detroit manager Jim Leyland of Peavy. "That's sometimes what you've got to do to beat a good pitcher."
"You would like to win these," Peavy said. "And as a starting pitcher, when you get that many runs and you don't walk away with a team win, it's disgusting. I take full responsibility for letting the inning get to where it got."
There was plenty of White Sox finger-pointing back at themselves. Pierzynski said after the loss that he should take the blame for putting the wrong fingers down in the sixth, while Ohman (0-2) took responsibility for hitting pinch-hitter Delmon Young on a 2-2 pitch and then giving up Austin Jackson's three-run homer to center on an 0-2 pitch to complete the Tigers' eight-run rally.
"Obviously, the momentum changed pretty quickly," said Ohman, who allowed four runs in one inning and called the 0-2 homer hit by Jackson unacceptable. "I didn't do what I need to. I got beat. I cost us the game."
Two runs scored in each of the first, third and fifth innings helped the White Sox build up that six-run advantage against Scherzer, with Pierzynski driving in three, Paul Konerko adding his seventh homer with one out in the third and Viciedo singling home a run. It ultimately wasn't enough to prevent a gut-wrenching defeat, dropping the White Sox 3 1/2 games out of first in the American League Central and to 6-9 over a stretch of 15 straight games against the division that ended on Tuesday.
Their ninth-inning comeback put an exciting cap to the roller-coaster ride, with Viciedo just missing White Sox euphoria.
"I know his power is to the left more than right field, and I just threw a fastball down and away and he hit it pretty good," Dotel said. "But when I saw the fly ball, I was confused -- he got it, he don't got it -- because of the ballpark."
"That's something these guys continue to do," said Ventura of the improbable comeback. "They take pride in their at-bats, they go up there and battle. That stuff pays off. You don't get it in this game, but eventually you get them."