Before Tuesday night’s game against the Tigers, manager Robin Ventura was asked if he’s having fun in his debut season in the White Sox’ dugout.
“I’ve enjoyed it,” Ventura said.
He should be enjoying it, considering the Sox are still in first place after being given little or no chance to contend this season.
But the spotlight is much brighter at this stage of the season, and the second- guessing much more pointed.
And that conveniently brings us to Tuesday night’s 5-3 loss to Detroit at U.S. Cellular Field.
Before the game, Ventura was again asked why the White Sox’ most dangerous hitter, Alex Rios, is still batting fifth instead of third, especially with Adam Dunn out with a strained right oblique.
“You’re looking at the lineup and you’re putting a lot of righties together,” Ventura said. “It’s more how the lineup stacks up. And (Rios) has been comfortable where he’s at.”
More questions were raised during the Tigers’ win, which cut the first-place Sox’ lead back to 2 games in the AL Central.
Like all the other White Sox starting pitchers of late, Jake Peavy was doomed by a high pitch count. The right-hander threw 117 pitches in 5 innings, allowing 3 runs on 6 hits.
In the fifth inning, Austin Jackson hit a 2-run homer off Peavy and Miguel Cabrera added a solo shot.
“You give up homers,” Peavy said. “You don’t mind doing that, but they have to be solos like (Tigers starter Doug) Fister.”
The Sox’ bullpen picked up Peavy until Ventura called on demoted starter Francisco Liriano to make his relief debut in the eighth inning.
With the Tigers clinging to a 3-2 lead, Liriano hit leadoff man Avisail Garcia with a pitch, allowed a Jhonny Peralta bloop single and was gone after giving up Alex Avila’s RBI single.
Detroit added another run in the inning on Andy Dirks’ RBI single, which also was charged to Liriano.
“I tried to get him in there,” Ventura said of going with Liriano. “The bloop put runners or first and third. If (center fielder) Alejandro De Aza comes up with it, it’s probably different.”
Fister was very sharp for the Tigers, but the Sox mounted a rally when reliever Joaquin Benoit entered in the eighth.
The White Sox greeted Benoit with 3 straight singles, including De Aza’s RBI to cut the Tigers’ lead to 5-3.
With runners on first and second and no outs, Kevin Youkilis twice tried sacrificing before striking out on an awkward swing. The sacrifice strategy seemed to take the air out of the Sox’ rally.
“We’re trying to tie it up and we’re trying to move them into scoring position, and it just didn’t happen,” Ventura said. “We didn’t execute it very well.”
Ventura correctly credited Fister as being the key player in the game. The Tigers’ starter allowed just 2 hits over 7 innings, solo home runs by Dewayne Wise and Gordon Beckham.
“He pitched a great game,” Wise said of Fister. “He had a pretty good curveball working tonight. I can’t speak for the other guys, but I know at least with me that thing was breaking pretty sharp. He kept throwing it, and you have to give him credit. We kept chasing it.”
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