DETROIT — If you can’t beat the worst team in the division, you probably have no business winning it.
The White Sox’ 3-2 loss to the Tigers in 10 innings Friday night dropped them four games behind the American League Central-leading Guardians, who rallied from a 3-0 deficit to beat the Twins, leaving the Sox five games down in the loss column.
It was a stinging — if not devastating — defeat for a team enjoying its best stretch of a disappointing season.
But there was nothing to enjoy about this loss, not when there are 17 games left and with a big chunk of ground to make up. Especially from a lineup that produced five homers in a must-win game against the Guardians the day before.
“We got two runs,” acting manager Miguel Cairo said. “We didn’t score enough.”
The Sox (74-71) were 2-for-12 with runners in scoring position and didn’t execute on a bunt that set up the winning run. Tigers starter Matt Manning, 25, blanked the Sox for seven innings before Jose Abreu’s two-run tying double in the eighth against the Tigers’ bullpen.
After Josh Harrison, Elvis Andrus (3-for-5) and Yoan Moncada struck out against Alex Lange with fleet pinch runner Luis Robert at second in the 10th, the Tigers (55-89) won when free runner Ryan Kreidler scored from third on Victor Reyes’ sacrifice fly against closer Liam Hendriks. Kreidler got to third on a sacrifice bunt by Willi Castro, who was safe at first on Hendriks’ throw in the dirt.
“I thought I had a play at third,” Hendriks said. “But there was no one there. Just the second error of my career, I think. So it’s unfortunate that it happened in this situation. [The sacrifice fly] would have been the third out there, and we all of a sudden get a chance to hit again.”
The way the Sox swung the bats, it might not have mattered anyway.
“At the end of the day, I need to throw a better pitch than that last one,” Hendriks said.
Cairo decided against bunting in the 10th, taking the more aggressive approach for possible multiple runs.
“If I would have bunted right there to move it over, Lange is nasty,” Cairo said. “We’ve got Andrus coming up and Moncada. He throws a lot of sliders, so I was just . . . you’re the visitor, so I want to be aggressive. It didn’t work out.”
After Lucas Giolito pitched 4‰ innings of one-run ball — reliever Jimmy Lambert got the third out of the fifth with Javy Baez at third — the Tigers took a 2-0 lead on Jonathan Schoop’s homer against Lambert with two outs in the sixth.
It was looking like the Sox’ night in the eighth inning when Sox reliever Joe Kelly struck out Spencer Torkelson on a breaking pitch that bounced toward the mound off catcher Yasmani Grandal’s shin guard, giving an aggressive Baez a chance to score from third. But Kelly scooped the ball with his glove and flipped it to Grandal, who tagged out Baez to end the inning.
It only prolonged the inevitable. For one game, and maybe the season.
“We’re in a position where we have to win a lot of games in a short period of time, regardless of how Cleveland is playing or Minnesota is playing,” Giolito said.
“Tough loss in extra innings, but it is what it is, and we move on to tomorrow.”
But the Tigers don’t figure to roll over.
“I think they thought they were going to come in and get some easy wins, and we didn’t like that,” Manning said.
Hendriks didn’t like questions about the notion that the Sox are running out of time.
“Let’s stop saying it’s too late,” he said, citing three games left against the Guardians.
“If we win, we have a chance,” he said. “If we don’t, then we don’t. That’s something we need to take day by day. We can’t look ahead or look at the scoreboard every time. Just gets disheartening sometimes.”