Defense and wind blow Tigers' chance for rally
CHICAGO, Apr 13, 2012 (Detroit Free Press - McClatchy-Tribune News Service via COMTEX) --
When the ball was hit it looked like it was headed for the leftfield corner, a double that would've brought in two runners and given the Tigers a one-run lead in the top of the seventh inning Friday at U.S. Cellular Field.
It was the White Sox's home opener and before that screamer raced into leftfield off the bat of Andy Dirks, it seemed like the Tigers were doomed.
Chicago right-handed starter Jake Peavy hadn't given up a run in his first six innings. In fact, he didn't give up a hit until the fourth. Tigers right-handed starter Max Scherzer, meanwhile, pitched about as effectively, except for a slider he hung to Dayan Viciedo in the fifth, which he crushed into the leftfield seats for a solo home run, and for the slider he left up in the zone for Paul Konerko, who muscled it into the opposite field in the sixth to give the White Sox a 2-0 lead.
An add-on run from an A.J. Pierzynski triple probably shouldn't have counted _ Konerko was tagged at the plate; replays showed the umpire missed the call.
Despite all of that, Dirks stepped to the plate with runners at second and third and a chance to tie the game or give the Tigers the lead. The lefty smacked a liner into leftfield. Most opposite-field lasers from left-handed batters tend to slice toward the corner.
This one stayed true _ and up _ giving Viciedo a chance to dive. He did. He caught it and ended the Tigers' rally.
Still, the Tigers were down only 3-2 _ Delmon Young hit a two-run homer before Dirks' liner was caught. Octavio Dotel shut down the White Sox in the bottom of the seventh, and the Tigers started to rally again in the eighth.
After Tigers second baseman Ryan Raburn just missed a homer with a deep fly ball to left-center _ Tigers manager Jim Leyland said he thought the wind would carry it out; the wind knocked it down instead _ Austin Jackson drew a walk. That forced first-year White Sox manager Robin Ventura to pull right-handed reliever Addison Reed in favor of left-hander Matt Thornton.
Brennan Boesch, who never minds facing lefties, knocked a single into rightfield. Jackson took third, putting runners at the corners with one out for Miguel Cabrera. The third baseman hit a grounder up the middle. Alexei Ramirez dived, snagged the ball and tossed it to Gordon Beckham at second from his glove. The second baseman tagged the bag and fired to first, doubling up Cabrera easily.
"They made a couple of nice defensive plays in big situations, and that was pretty much the game," Leyland said.
Also crucial was a play the Tigers couldn't make. The wind was at least partly responsible. In the bottom of the eighth inning, Chicago centerfielder Alejandro De Aza blasted a shot into deep left that got caught up in the wind. It started right, then sailed back left and in the process completely turned Young around. The Tigers' leftfielder managed to get a glove on it but couldn't catch it. De Aza was rewarded with a triple. That set up two more runs and pushed the White Sox's lead to 5-2.
"The wind was everywhere," Young said.
Leyland was concurred.
"That happens," he said of Young's wind-induced misadventure, "that's part of the game."
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