Tigers fall on ninth-inning home run

Tigers fall in ninth

DETROIT -- The Tigers still haven't handed Gavin Floyd a loss. But he wasn't the one who beat them on Friday night -- another Tigers nemesis, Jermaine Dye, did. Again.

Four pitches after the White Sox were down to their last strike, the Tigers were trailing. That's how quickly Detroit's fortunes turned with Dye's go-ahead, two-run homer. That's also how hard it is to erase a big division deficit. Just when the Tigers seemed poised to gain another game on the White Sox, Friday's 6-5 loss dropped them back to 6 1/2 games down in the standings.

"That's the reason they're in first place," manager Jim Leyland said. "They came in here and snuck one on the road."

The look on closer Todd Jones' face as he turned to watch Dye's ball sail showed how surprised his club was to lose it.

"That just goes to show you how tight a rope guys walk in the ninth inning," Jones said.

The game turned quickly. The standings, on the other hand, are unforgivingly slow to improve for Detroit. It's a frustrating climb for the Tigers, and with 60 games left, the schedule isn't in their favor.

"We're in a hole," Jones said, "and now we're 6 1/2 out instead of 4 1/2 out. We played with them. I just didn't get the job done tonight."

He was very close to doing so. After all his saves with men on base this season, he was a strike away from retiring the top of the White Sox lineup in order with a one-run lead, tantalizingly close to what would've been one of his biggest and best-looking saves of the season.

Orlando Cabrera and A.J. Pierzynski had both popped out on 0-1 pitches, and Jones quickly put Carlos Quentin in an 0-2 hole, prompting a sellout crowd of 44,393 to stand.

If there was a way to neutralize the American League's home-run leader, an 0-2 hole was the way to do it. Instead of having to challenge Quentin, Jones could try to get him to chase.

That's what the veteran tried to do, and Quentin went for it. However, he got enough of the plate that Quentin slapped a ground ball through the right side and into right field for a game-extending hit.

"Obviously, if you locate it, we're not having this conversation," Jones said. "If I throw a slider off the plate and try to get him to expand and hang it, then I'm having to answer that question. It just comes down to execution and results."

Jones had yet to miss the strike zone at that point. After missing it on back-to-back pitches to Dye, Jones was in the reverse situation. Dye was just 4-for-18 lifetime off of him, but on deck was Jim Thome, 9-for-15 with three doubles and three home runs against Jones in his career.

Nonetheless, the approach was the same: Don't let Dye pull the ball. The pitch accomplished that, but Dye hit it with enough authority to send the ball the other way into the right-field seats.

"I'm still focused on trying to get Jermaine, just stay away from him and not let him get a ball in that he can really drive," Jones (4-1) said. "He got a ball away and drove it. You just have to keep using both sides of the plate, just try to make pitches.

"He got me. There's nothing I can say. He got me. I have to live with that."

More than a few Tigers pitchers have had to say that. Dye's 22nd home run of the season was also the 22nd of his career against Detroit. Sixteen of those have come in his four seasons in a White Sox uniform.

"Sometimes you get beat. Sometimes you beat yourself," Jones said. "I don't think I beat myself tonight. I think I just got beat."

It was not an individual effort. The Tigers took a 4-1 lead into the seventh inning and saw the White Sox tie it after three straight singles -- two off starter Nate Robertson, another off Joel Zumaya. Cabrera's heads-up play to advance from first to second on Pierzynski's sacrifice fly to center field set him up to take third when Ivan Rodriguez couldn't handle a Zumaya fastball and score when Rodriguez tried to throw him out and ended up throwing the ball into left field for an error.

"Definitely heads-up baserunning on his part," Curtis Granderson said.

Carlos Guillen put the Tigers back ahead in the bottom of the seventh with a solo homer off Nick Masset.

Floyd was off the hook, leaving him at 3-0 for his career against Detroit. He gave up four runs, three earned, on nine hits over six innings, with most of the damage coming in a three-run third. However, he stranded the bases loaded in that inning with a double play.

Floyd also escaped the fifth unscathed when, with runners at the corners and one out, he struck out Matt Joyce on a hit-and-run play, leaving Magglio Ordonez trapped between third and home.

"We played hard. We just didn't play good enough," Leyland said. "We didn't break the game open. We didn't really have a chance to get [Cabrera at third]. And then we got to two outs in the ninth and an 0-2 pitch."

There was plenty that set up that situation, but nothing to give Jones consolation. He has pitched worse and gotten saves, he said, but that wasn't the point.

"What I do is pass-fail," Jones said. "Tonight, I failed."

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.