Punchless Tigers fall three games behind Sox in AL Central

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What Tigers manager Jim Leyland said before Monday’s 6-1 loss to the White Sox was still true after it.

“The problem is we scored one run again,” he said. “We put Rick [Porcello, the starting pitcher] in a bind. When you’re scoring one or two runs a game, you can’t blame the defense.”

In a game the Tigers defense let down again with three errors, it was more the Sox continuing ability to hit home runs and the Tigers’ failure to score any kinds of runs that saw Detroit fall three games behind in the American League Central.

Only one of the three errors ended up hurting the Tigers–second baseman Omar Infante’s mishandling of Dewayne Wise’s ground ball in the sixth.

It came with one out, and started the Sox fireworks when Paul Konerko singled and Alex Rios homered. A.J. Pierzynski followed with another homer, ending Porcello’s (9-12) night and putting the Tigers on the ropes.

“It’s my job to keep making pitches, regardless of what happens,” said Porcello, who had recorded quality starts in each of his last six games against the Sox dating to August 2010. Porcello had a 5-0 record and 2.27 ERA in that six-game stretch.

“You get in a tough situation and you have to reach down and find something to get through it,” he said. “I had control of the game until they got me in that one inning. They tagged it in that sixth. You have to tip your hat sometimes. Tonight they were better than me in that inning.”

Until the sixth, the Tigers led 1-0 after a run in the second. But that inning of four hits and a wild pitch by Sox rookie starter Jose Quintana might have produced more.

“We hadn’t seen him before,” Leyland said of Quintana (6-4), who shook off the effects of his last poor start against Minnesota with a strong 7 2/3 innings of seven hits and seven strikeouts against the Tigers. “We didn’t get the knockout punch when we had him early. Then he got confidence as the game went on. You could see his chest sort of stick out. I certainly give him credit, but it’s not like we didn’t have chances. We had our shots and let him off the hook.”

The Tigers had only three hits after the second, falling into the same offensive malaise that has seen them hit only .222 (51-230) during a seven-game road losing streak, including 8-51 (.157) with runners in scoring position.

They are 1-6 in their last seven games overall.

“Rick did a pretty good job,” Leyland said. “We just didn’t play a real good game defensively and got one run again. That sums it up.

“Frustration isn’t the right word. We know what’s at stake here when we have to go against the team ahead of us. They’re all big now and it’s a very important series, obviously. We would have liked to have gotten this one, but we’ll come back tomorrow and see.”

The Tigers could still leave Chicago in a first place tie–or see the distance between them and the Sox extend to six games.

“By no means is it over,” Porcello said. “We just have to keep playing hard. We had a pretty good ball game until I gave up those homers. We have to play good baseball–pitch well, and play defense. There’s no secret to it. Everyone has to be in sync and just play good ball.

“It was a good atmosphere,” he said. “We still have a chance to make the playoffs and you can’t complain about that.”

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