With 10 wins in their last 13 games heading into Tuesday night's matchup with the last-place Royals, the White Sox should have been relaxed and ready to play baseball.
They Sox actually have stayed loose all season because first-year manager Robin Ventura doesn't make any rash lineup changes when inevitable mistakes occur.
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But at this point of the season the race for first place becomes magnified. The White Sox still are leading the AL Central, but not only did they lose to Kansas City 5-2 at U.S. Cellular Field, they lost a game in the standings to the red-hot Tigers, who held on to edge the Yankees 6-5.
"We know how good Detroit is," Sox starter Jake Peavy said after absorbing another tough-luck loss. "They are playing up to the way everybody thought they would. Detroit's team is outstanding. Not really a whole lot of weaknesses."
Detroit is only a half-game behind the White Sox after winning at Comerica Park for the 16th time in 17 games.
The Sox have been good at home as well, having won 13 of their last 16. But there is no doubt about it -- they are bracing for a very tough stretch run with the Tigers.
"They're a good team," Adam Dunn said. "I don't think it's surprising anyone that they're playing well. We've got a lot of baseball left, and hopefully we get hot at the right time.
"We can't just sit here and worry about what they do. We've got to worry about what we do."
Actually, the White Sox might be better off worrying about how to score more runs when Peavy (9-8) is on the mound.
The all-star starter had some rough patches against the Royals while allowing 3 runs on 7 hits and 3 walks in 6 innings, but he deserved a better fate.
Peavy has a 3.13 ERA over his last 10 starts but is 3-7 because his teammates have scored just 24 total runs.
It's no surprise Peavy's spirits were at an all-time low after the game.
"You would hope (for more run support), but that's just not the way it has went this year," Peavy said. "You play the hand you are dealt, and I've just got to be good on my day most times.
"It's just when we score, we score in bunches. And when we don't score, we don't score many.
"(K.C. starter) Bruce Chen was good tonight, but we had our chances. We just couldn't quite make it happen. Then we couldn't get a ball hit at anybody and have a guy in position there to make a play on that last (seventh) inning.
"It's just unfortunate we had our chances. We could have played a tad bit better and won that game. It hurts the most."
Chen (8-9) won for the first time since June 26, and he looked vulnerable when Gordon Beckham led off with first inning with a home run.
But the Royals' crafty left-hander always seems to stick it to the White Sox, and he is 3-0 with a 1.34 ERA over his last 5 starts at the Cell.
"He just did a good job," Beckham said. "He's got a lot of pitches, and he keeps people off balance. He just knows how to pitch. We couldn't get to him."