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Tigers preserve lead despite loss

Tigers preserve lead despite loss

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CHICAGO -- The Tigers headed home for their showdown with the Twins Sunday night with their two-game lead in the American League Central unchanged from Saturday. But they had to feel like they missed an opportunity with their 8-4 loss to the White Sox, and not just at the plate.

Around the same time the Twins were struggling to put up a run against AL Cy Young Award candidate Zack Greinke, the Tigers had their chances against White Sox rookie Daniel Hudson -- two runners on and nobody out in the second and third, then bases loaded and one out in the sixth. They came away with one run total out of those jams.

It figured, then, that three straight hits off Edwin Jackson in the bottom of the inning would lead to three runs, sending Jackson and the Tigers to defeat.

Minutes after the Tigers lost, Joe Mauer's ninth-inning groundout against Joakim Soria as the potential tying run finished off Minnesota's loss. The Tigers, however, weren't watching. They were already packing up and thinking of their upcoming matchup, their clubhouse television turned off.

A Detroit win Sunday would've rendered that series a desperate situation for Minnesota. As it is, the Tigers will take their chances with the lead they have and try to finish off the Twins. They'll likely need more offense than they had Sunday to do that.

"Today was pretty much [about] our offense, which has been mind-boggling, really," manager Jim Leyland said. "They got it last night, you think maybe you've got something going. And for five or six innings, you've got three hits."

It wasn't simply about their hit total. Hudson allowed just two singles after Curtis Granderson's 100th career home run and franchise-record 24th career leadoff homer put the Tigers in front. Hudson's five walks, however, came in bunches over his six innings.

Back-to-back walks to Aubrey Huff and Carlos Guillen put two runners on with nobody out in the second inning, but after a Brandon Inge fly out, Scott Podsednik's sliding catch in center field on Gerald Laird started an inning-ending double play after Huff took off from second.

"I know with runners on, he seemed like a guy that would be slow to the plate, but he's actually a little sneaky," Granderson said. "With runners on base, he got out of jams because he was able to go ahead and pound that ball in on guys."

Two more singles leading off the third created another scoring chance, only for Hudson to retire nine straight Tigers and take a tie game into the middle innings. Then suddenly, he lost command, walking three Tigers in a four-batter span to bring up Guillen with the bases loaded and one out.

Guillen centered a fastball and lined it toward center field, creating a glimpse of the surge the Tigers rode to a comeback victory Saturday. This one, however, Podsednik ran down, leaving the Tigers to settle for a sacrifice fly.

"He hit it hard," Leyland said. "You can't fault that. He hit it hard right at them."

That was their chance. Inge fell into an 0-2 hole before swinging and missing on a 1-2 pitch to end the threat.

"Of course I got in a little funk there a couple times and threw a lot of balls," Hudson said. "Luckily I was able to get out of it and got some great defense behind me."

Those escapes kept the White Sox in a position to wait for their chance on Jackson, who retired 10 straight batters after Carlos Quentin's second-inning RBI double tied the game. Jackson was rolling with one groundout after another, which usually isn't part of his game, until he went out for the sixth inning after that rally.

Jackson had been behind in the count at times, especially early, but induced outs with his fastball. Come the sixth, the White Sox teed off on it.

"They hit the ball. That's what changed," Jackson said. "They just hit the ball."

More important, they hit it for extra bases. Alex Rios' double down the left-field line put the tying run on for Podsednik, who hit a 2-0 heater into the gap in right-center field for a triple. From there, he could stroll home on Gordon Beckham's double down the line before Jermaine Dye's RBI single two batters later added an insurance run.

"It wasn't like a single," Jackson said. "There were two down the line, another in the gap. They were just well-placed balls."

Once Chicago used Quentin's three-run homer to tack on four more in the eighth, when Fernando Rodney was getting work, any hope of gaining distance was over. Jackson (13-8) gave up five runs over 7 1/3 innings for his second loss in his past three starts.

He's the only Tigers starter who won't pitch against the Twins this week, but the impact of Sunday's loss might well linger into it.

"He gave us a chance," Leyland said. "We just didn't do much offensively."

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

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