CHICAGO – It was the perfect situation for Gavin Floyd and the White Sox.
The Sox, in need of a more reliable arm in the rotation, turned to Floyd, who has put up stellar numbers against rival Detroit.
While the outcome – an 8-6 loss that shaved their lead over Detroit to one game in the AL Central – elevates the pressure heading into tonight’s series finale, a healthy Floyd proved he can be the consistent starter the Sox need in the final weeks of the regular season.
Floyd entered Wednesday’s showdown with a 7-2 record and a 3.42 ERA in 19 career starts against Detroit. The Sox didn’t expect Floyd to be perfect in his first start since Aug. 26 against Seattle. Yet his performance, limited by a pitch count, gave the Sox a chance to win, which was all they could ask in his first start off the disabled list.
Floyd (9-10) lasted 42⁄3 innings and allowed three runs on four hits.
“He looked sharp when he first came out there,” manager Robin Ventura said. “He got to a point where he got a little tired. But he looked sharp. That’s as sharp as we’ve seen him in a while.”
Questions surrounded Floyd’s elbow holding up when he threw curveballs. He held off throwing any until his final bullpen session Sunday and even then was limited in how many he threw. It was hard to deny their effectiveness against Detroit. Four of his seven strikeouts came on the curveball, at one point utterly fooling Prince Fielder.
“Honestly, I didn’t know where it was going to be,” Floyd said. “I only threw probably six of them in the past 15 days. Felt real good, got a good feel for it and just continued with it.”
Floyd had only one hiccup in his first outing since landing on the disabled list with right elbow ﬂexor strain, but it led to an early hook. Brennan Boesch hit a rocket on the ground past third baseman Kevin Youkilis for a single and Jhonny Peralta followed with a five-pitch walk to open the fifth.
Floyd entered the fifth having retired 10 consecutive batters. One of Floyd’s biggest tests was seeing how his elbow would feel after extended rest as the right-hander sat while the Sox batted. Floyd said there were no issues having to pitch after sitting as long as 20 minutes.
“I was around the strike zone, but not like I had been the past four innings,” Floyd said. “I felt pretty strong.”
He managed to get the next two hitters out – though Omar Infante drove in the tying run on his ground out. Then, Austin Jackson, who punished the Sox all game, delivered an RBI single to left field. Despite his pitch count sitting at 74 pitches, manager Robin Ventura turned to his bullpen. Ultimately another run scored and was charged to Floyd.
Floyd wanted to stay in the game, but the Sox couldn’t risk losing one of their veteran pitchers, especially with the back-end of their bullpen in shaky standing.
“As a starter you want to stay in as long as you can,” Floyd said. “I know I was hovering around the pitch count that they had me at. ... I’ve only been throwing about 50 in the bullpen so I knew I was probably in between that and probably 80 or something.”