The White Sox were having a lot of trouble solving Detroit right-hander Doug Fister Tuesday night. Through seven innings, Fister had given up only two hits -- both solo home runs (to Dewayne Wise and Gordon Beckham) -- and had a 5-2 lead.
But Fister's pitch count was at 99 through seven innings, so Tigers manager Jim Leyland summoned set-up man Joaquin Benoit to pitch the eighth inning for Detroit. Suddenly, the line started moving for the Sox. Alexei Ramirez singled. Beckham singled. Alejandro De Aza singled, scoring Ramirez. Just like that, it was 5-3 and the tying runs were on base with nobody out. Benoit was on the ropes.
But not for long.
Sox manager Robin Ventura reminded everyone this is his first year on the job with an egregious rookie mistake: He ordered Kevin Youkilis to lay down a sacrifice bunt. After two failed attempts, Youkilis struck out swinging. One out, and bye-bye momentum. Benoit relaxed and struck out Wise. He threw a hanging slider to Paul Konerko that the Sox captain should have hit into orbit. Instead, Konerko jammed himself as he grounded out to second base to end the inning.
So much for the comeback.
Oh, did I mention Youkilis does not have a sacrifice bunt in his career? He's been in the bigs nine years. No sacrifice bunts. Someone is going to have to explain to me what sense it makes to ask a player to do something he's never done before in the late innings of a close game, in the heat of a tight pennant race.
The Sox went on to lose the game, 5-3, and saw their AL Central lead shaved to two games with 21 left to play.
Chicago did not get the outing it needed from starter Jake Peavy (10-11). The right-hander struck out nine, but he allowed three runs over 5 2/3 innings. He needed 117 pitches to record 17 outs. That's not nearly efficient enough. Detroit got into the Sox bullpen early and scored two runs off the combination of Francisco Liriano and Jesse Crain in the top of the eighth. Those two runs proved to be the difference in the game.
There are two games left in this four-game series. Both teams have one win, and the job gets a little harder for the Sox. They'll face right-hander Max Scherzer (15-6, 3.85 ERA) Wednesday night, and he -- not Justin Verlander -- has been Detroit's best pitcher of late. The Sox will counter with right-hander Gavin Floyd (9-9, 4.55 ERA), who just came off the DL and will make his first start since Aug. 26.