Tigers cut White Sox’ lead to half-game behind Justin Verlander
BY DARYL VAN SCHOUWEN firstname.lastname@example.org July 20, 2012 11:14PM
Alejandro De Aza gave the Sox a 2-0 lead with a third-inning homer, but starter Jake Peavy (44) gave up three runs in the bottom of the frame. | Getty Images
Updated: August 22, 2012 6:13AM
DETROIT — Jake Peavy probably thought his eyes were playing tricks on him when Alejandro De Aza hit a two-run homer against Justin Verlander in the third inning.
The Comerica Park scoreboard displayed a rare lead for the White Sox right-hander, who had received 2.5 runs a game over his last eight starts. And after striking out the first five Tigers he faced and then watching De Aza hit a 382-footer against MVP Justin Verlander, it looked like Peavy’s night in a marquee matchup of Cy Young winners on Friday night.
But Peavy couldn’t hold the lead. One bad inning bit him where it hurt, and it was all Verlander after that as the charging Tigers held on for a 4-2 victory that brought them within a half-game of the AL Central leading Sox.
“It’s tough when you feel you weren’t quite good enough for your team to get it done,’’ said Peavy, who fell to 7-7 including 1-6 over his last nine starts despite owning a 3.22 ERA. “And you knew you had to be good going in versus that lineup against that pitcher.”
Peavy’s undoing was the bottom of the third after De Aza gave him a 2-0 lead. He set himself up to get out of the inning after getting Austin Jackson to hit into a double play, but he grazed No. 2 hitter Quintin Berry (0-for-3, two strikeouts) with the meat of the Tigers’ order coming up. Miguel Cabrera (sharp single), Prince Fielder (soft single) and Delmon Young (double) took turns driving in runs and Peavy’s lead was gone like that.
“Just trying to make sure it’s in,’’ Peavy said of the pitch that clipped Berry. “Obviously we’d love to have that pitch back. I just nicked him and I hate that that happened and Cabrera is just Cabrera.’’
Fielder is Fielder, and Peavy got him to hit a slow roller, but it went to the right of second base where no one was defending. The ball was hit so slowly, it stopped in the outfield before De Aza could pick it up.
“I felt like I made a good pitch to Prince,’’ Peavy said. “When it’s not going your way, it’s not going your way. The ball was cued off the end of the bat and it runs up the middle completely away from [Gordon] Beckham. That’s the ball game.’’
Young lined a double for the third run before Peavy retired 11 in a row. The Tigers’ fourth run came on a single by Jhonny Peralta, a Peavy balk and an RBI single by Jackson. Peavy threw 122 pitches over seven innings, walking none and striking out two more after that early onslaught of strikeouts.
Verlander (11-5), meanwhile, cut through the Sox lineup with relative ease, giving up nothing after De Aza’s homer. He allowed four hits and two walks while striking out six.
‘‘Especially against a guy like Peavy, I knew that if I gave up much more, it’s game over,” Verlander said. “That’s what I told myself. I said, ‘All right, that’s it.’ ’’
Verlander finished strong in the eighth, getting a called third strike on a knee-high 3-2 pitch on the outside corner to Alexei Ramirez before shearing Beckham’s bat at the handle on a check-swing foul with a 100-mph pitch. His last pitch was a 90-mph changeup to De Aza.
“He’s a tough challenge,’’ said Alex Rios, who doubled in the second with one out but advanced no farther.
“We’re still confident.’’
Jose Valverde retired Kevin Youkilis, Adam Dunn and Paul Konerko in a perfect ninth.
“We know this is going to be a battle and grind,’’ Peavy said. “Detroit is playing well and made a nice run [with 11 wins in their last 13 games]. We believe that we’re going to do that as well. We’re going to be in this thing to the finish. We’ll fight tooth and nail.’’