The Tigers put up 21 hits and lost, something no Major League team had done since the Cubs tallied 22 hits in a 15-12 loss at Cincinnati on Sept. 12, 2002, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. No Tigers team had that many hits in defeat since a 15-13 loss at Boston on June 13, 1934.
On the other hand, Detroit had a 9-1 deficit in the fourth inning, put the tying run on base in the sixth, fell back down by five and still put that tying run back at the plate with two outs in the ninth.
The Tigers got their offense back, but the White Sox got the sweep.
"They're the world champs for a reason," said Chris Shelton, whose Major League-leading seventh home run of the season started Detroit's comeback. "They have the same team back, and they're going to be right there again. We have to take business when we have opportunities to."
Between unseasonably warm weather and a breeze blowing out most of the day, hard hits carried to the depths of the park and the gaps. While Justin Verlander left his pitches up in the strike zone in his fourth Major League start, so did All-Star Jon Garland.
Both starters gave up seven runs, with Garland yielding a career-high 13 hits. Chicago's relentless attack against Detroit's bullpen became the difference.
"We didn't stop the bleeding," Leyland said. "You give them the credit. They hit some good pitches and we made some bad pitches."
What stood out to Leyland was how Chicago's offense pounced when innings were nearly finished. Eight of its 13 runs came with two outs and nobody on. Verlander retired the first two batters of the third inning, yet he didn't survive to see the end of it. A walk to Jim Thome preceded five consecutive White Sox hits, four off Verlander, and five runs.
"I knew it was going to be a rough day, but I tried to battle through," Verlander said. "Even in the third, I was one pitch away from getting out of it, and who knows what happens then? But it didn't pan out that way."
Verlander was perfectly willing to live with walking Thome and giving him one base instead of four for a change. Any Tigers pitcher would have, which is why Detroit intentionally walked him with two outs in the seventh and a two-run game.
Thome's assault on Detroit continued with his first at-bat. He swung and missed at two fastballs to put the count at 2-2, then watched a 99 mph heater go by to work the count full before waiting on an 81 mph changeup and hitting an opposite-field shot into the left-field seats. It was his fourth homer in as many games, and it came after Tadahito Iguchi homered off a hanging changeup in his previous at-bat.
"If he throws his changeup down, it could've been different," catcher Ivan Rodriguez said. "He just got everything up. The kid just had a bad outing."
He meant Verlander, but he could've meant Garland, too. Garland's 10-4 career record against the Tigers includes good games and bad, but none like this.
Shelton pounced on a flat fastball from Garland and drove it just shy of the brick wall in left-center field, scoring Dmitri Young and drawing the Tigers within six. An inning later, Garland served up a belt-high offspeed pitch to Magglio Ordonez, who hit it out to left for his third home run of the year and two more runs.
Garland briefly recovered before Shelton and Carlos Guillen hit back-to-back doubles and scored. The only reason Garland (1-1) survived the fifth to qualify for the win was that as Guillen scored on Craig Monroe's single to center, catcher A.J. Pierzynski caught Monroe straying between first and second and forced an inning-ending rundown.
It was the second baserunning out in as many innings. Guillen followed Shelton's home run with a single, and he was waved home on Omar Infante's one-out triple. Iguchi's relay throw easily beat Guillen to the plate.
"We certainly didn't play a perfect game today," Leyland said. "But at the same time, those kinds of things happen. We looked good for the most part until today."
Three more hits off Brandon McCarthy in the sixth, including Rodriguez's RBI single, brought up Young with a chance to take the lead. He fell feet short of doing that, flying out to the warning track in left-center.
Not until Iguchi's drive sailed over Curtis Granderson to double in two runs in the seventh inning could Chicago feel comfortable with its lead. Even then, it didn't last.
Three singles in the ninth, including Omar Infante's career-best fourth hit of the game, loaded the bases with two outs for Granderson against Matt Thornton. Granderson fell into an 0-2 hole before Thornton drew a called third strike to finally end it.
"The biggest thing is [that] we wanted to continue to go out and give ourselves chances," Shelton said. "That's what we did. We gave ourselves opportunities to go out there and win. We got it within two, and we even had a chance there in the ninth. As long as we have that, we'll take it, and hopefully, they'll start turning our way."
Leyland will take it. He'll just have to adjust his expectations of his new home.
"This is a beautiful ballpark," he said. "It hasn't been very good to me so far, but that's OK."