Tigers lose fifth in last seven games
Detroit falls 3 1/2 games behind Wild Card-leading Yankees
DETROIT -- Jeremy Bonderman had a healthy arm, he insists, but one ailing pitch. Tigers hitters know the feeling.
"Things have piled up on us," manager Jim Leyland said after Tuesday's 3-1 loss to the White Sox dropped Detroit further back in the playoff chase. "But you have to fight through this stuff."
Whether or not Bonderman was fine when Leyland came out to the mound before Alex Cintron's two-run homer in the sixth -- Bonderman said he was OK then, and said it again after the game -- Detroit's demise came at the plate, where Sox right-hander Jon Garland tripped them up again to remain unbeaten at Comerica Park.
While Bonderman fell two outs shy of a quality start, Garland tossed seven innings of one-run ball and allowed one scoring rally.
The Tigers' fifth loss in their last seven games dropped them to 3 1/2 games back in the American League Wild Card race with a Yankees victory. A Cleveland comeback at Minnesota expanded its lead to seven games in the AL Central. At this point, however, they have to worry about beating the White Sox -- something they've done just once in seven tries at Comerica Park this season -- before looking at the gap in the races.
"It seems like every time they play us, they're a much, much better team than their record shows," said Zach Miner, who tossed 3 2/3 scoreless innings of relief. "I don't know if they just get up for us. I'm surprised they don't beat up the rest of the league."
Though Bonderman said he's fine, a pitch in the dirt caused enough concern to bring Leyland and head athletic trainer Kevin Rand out to the mound. Two pitches later, Cintron turned on a fastball for his first home run of the year. It was a major contrast to the form Bonderman showed early in the game, and a reason for suspicion for others.
Bonderman retired the side in order in the first inning and stranded two runners in the second, seemingly setting him up for a second straight solid performance. He retired the first two batters in the third inning before Josh Fields drove the first pitch he saw deep to right for his 18th home run of the year.
Bonderman (11-8) flirted with more damage from there, yet recovered for timely outs, often overpowering Chicago's hitters. Once he got to the sixth, however, two plays -- one not of his doing -- sapped the power out of his outing.
Though Carlos Guillen has made the transition well to first base, his shortstop instincts seemingly came out on Paul Konerko's ground ball leading off the sixth. Placido Polanco fielded the ball between first and second, but Guillen initially broke towards the ball, leaving Polanco double-clutching while Guillen scampered back to first. Konerko beat the ball to the bag.
"When you play shortstop," Leyland said, "your first instinct all the time is to go for it."
Bonderman retired Darin Erstad, but fell behind on Cintron before leaving a 2-0 pitch in the dirt. Konerko advanced to second, then Leyland and Rand emerged from the dugout.
"[Pitching coach] Chuck [Hernandez] was a little suspicious with the way he threw a couple of pitches," Leyland said. "He said he was fine and it was just a changeup he threw. I could have easily hooked him right there, but he said he was fine."
Bonderman threw two more pitches after that, both fastballs. Cintron drove the second of them just deep enough to hit the railing above the right-field fence for his first home run since Sept. 29, 2006, spanning 60 games played and 163 at-bats.
Bonderman, for his part, said after the game there was no problem.
"[Leyland] said they thought there was something wrong," Bonderman said. "I just spiked two changeups and he thought they were fastballs, I guess. I was fine."
The two pitches that followed, however, made catcher Ivan Rodriguez believe something went wrong.
"After Jim came over, [Bonderman] said that his elbow bothered him a little bit," Rodriguez said, adding that Bonderman wanted to stay in the game. "And then he threw the next two pitches at 88-89 [mph]. So probably, he was protecting his arm in that situation.
"He pitched great. He's a bull, man. He's a tough guy. He doesn't want to get out of the game. He knows the situation that we are in right now. Everybody wants to do their part to come back and finish strong."
Garland (9-10) improved to 7-0 for his career at Comerica Park and 13-6 against the Tigers overall by holding them to a lone rally in the sixth. Omar Infante's one-out bunt started a string of three consecutive singles, capped by a 10-pitch battle that ended with a Guillen RBI liner into right field.
That put runners at the corners, including the would-be tying run at first. Rodriguez went for a hanging breaking ball, but popped it up behind first base.
"A hanging pitch and I just missed it," Rodriguez said. "It didn't go foul. It just stayed up in the air. That's baseball. I've got to keep working."
The problem for the Tigers was that there were too few at-bats like Guillen's in the game, where hitters worked Garland.
"We just gave Garland way too many easy outs," Leyland said. "He kept pounding the ball in and we kept making outs on them, it looked like to me. In defense of the players, that's always a catch-22. You talk about being aggressive, and you can't have it both ways. When they make outs on first pitches, you can't be upset about it, but they were not good pitches to hit."
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.