Time and again this year, the Tigers have turned to Edwin Jackson to pull them through a pitching duel. On Friday, Jake Peavy provided the pitching, but Jackson couldn't give him a duel. And with Peavy's eight scoreless innings, the resulting 8-0 loss to the White Sox didn't get anything off of Detroit's magic number.
Instead, along with Minnesota's 10-7 win over Kansas City, the combination whittled Detroit's American League Central lead to one game for the second time this week.
Once again, the Tigers will head into a day needing a combination of two wins or two Twins losses to Kansas City to finish off what would be their first division title in 22 years. Those final two only seem like they're taking an eternity.
No team in Major League history has led its division or league from May 10 or earlier until the final week and lost it, according to STATS. The Tigers aren't there yet, but they're not home, either.
When manager Jim Leyland walked through his clubhouse after Friday's loss, he told his team not to expect to have any help getting there.
"You're not going to get any help," Leyland said he told his players. "Don't expect it. If you want to win the division, you have to win two games."
The way Peavy was going, no one could seemingly help the Tigers on Friday.
What was hoped to be a late-season rebound for Jackson (13-9) turned out to be his second loss to the White Sox in six days. Scott Podsednik's first leadoff home run in five years put Jackson behind three pitches into his outing. Jackson recovered from there to retire Chicago's next eight hitters before Gerald Laird threw out Podsednik trying to steal with two outs in the third.
Once the White Sox lineup came around a second time against Jackson, however, the deficit only built from there. And in at least one key spot, Jackson didn't have much help, either.
After Gordon Beckham doubled leading off the fourth and was sacrificed to second, Jackson struck out Paul Konerko and nearly did the same with Jermaine Dye. His 2-2 slider was ruled just off the outside corner by home-plate umpire Tim Tschida. Dye fouled off two more pitches before popping a ball along the left-field line.
Left fielder Carlos Guillen tried to run it down, but made a sliding attempt to get under the ball that he might not have needed. He nearly overslid it, then couldn't corral the ball as it popped out of his glove as Beckham rounded third and Dye rolled into second.
"It looked like he could've kept going and caught the ball on his feet," Leyland said.
That would've been more than enough with Peavy (3-0) rolling through eight scoreless innings for the White Sox. Still, Carlos Quentin tacked on another run in the fifth by sending a 96-mph fastball 400 feet to left field for his 20th homer of the year.
Once six straight Tigers reached base safely leading off the sixth -- three by walk, including a bases-loaded pass to Dye -- the game was essentially put away. Mark Kotsay's two-run double knocked Jackson (13-9) from the game with his third five-inning outing in his past seven starts. With Zach Miner getting one more day of rest in preparation for potential work Saturday, rookie Casey Fien entered.
Jackson has struggled with his secondary pitches off and on for the past two months, including his slider. On Friday, he arguably had a better mix of pitches than he had in a few weeks, but the White Sox successfully waited out his fastball.
"He just left way too many bad pitches right in the middle of the plate -- way, way too many bad pitches, in the middle of the plate, just way too many hittable pitches," Leyland said.
Jackson called the sixth inning a "breaking point" for him.
"That's a great example of what happens when you don't slow the game down," Jackson said. "It was just a terrible job of controlling the game in the sixth."
When Jackson was asked if it could be a sign of late-season fatigue in his first 200-inning campaign, he shrugged it off.
"I'm not one to make any excuses," he said. "I don't feel tired. I'm just getting hit. There's no particular reason. I'm not tired. It's just a matter of locating pitches."
Peavy allowed a Placido Polanco single two batters in, then didn't allow another hit until Alex Avila's single leading off the eighth. However, he gave the Tigers an opportunity after Polanco's hit with a four-pitch walk to Magglio Ordonez, creating an early scoring opportunity for the middle of the Tigers' order.
From there, Peavy rounded into form. He caught Miguel Cabrera, a former foe from the National League, looking at a slider for a called third strike, then induced a first-pitch flyout from Aubrey Huff.
"Right now, his ball moves a lot more than when he pitched in San Diego," Cabrera said. "When you see it outside, it finds the corner. If you see it in the middle, it goes inside. He's hard to figure out."
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.