All square with 8 to go
CHICAGO – For the first time in more than three weeks, the White Sox have company atop the AL Central.
The Sox gave Detroit an opening to tie for the division lead when Gordon Beckham hit into a game-ending forceout with the potential tying run on second base Tuesday in a 4-3 loss to the last-place Cleveland Indians.
“We knew it wasn’t going to be easy,” catcher A.J. Pierzynski said. “[Detroit is] not going to go away. They’ll keep playing hard.”
Hours later, Anibal Sanchez pitched a three-hitter for the Tigers in a 2-0 victory over Kansas City that left both Detroit and the Sox at 82-72 with eight games to go.
The Sox had been alone in first place since Sept. 3.
The Sox have lost six of seven and have had trouble scoring without the long ball of late. Three solo homers were all their offense mustered Tuesday.
Down 4-0, the Sox rallied when Pierzynski and Dayan Viciedo hit consecutive fifth-inning home runs off Corey Kluber (2-4) and then pulled within a run when Paul Konerko homered off Chris Perez leading off the ninth.
“It’s just going to take some hits together that don’t go over the fence,” Beckham said. “If you string hits together, you usually score runs. It happens that a lot of ours go over the fence.”
Perez walked a pair of batters with two outs, and Beckham grounded to shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera, who threw to second baseman Jason Kipnis for the force.
“Every day there’s close games,” Konerko said. “Today was obviously not a step in the right direction. It was a tough game. We showed some heart to battle back. At this point of the season, you need the victories.”
After tonight’s series finale, the Sox welcome Tampa Bay for a four-game series and then close with three games in Cleveland.
Detroit finishes its four-game series against Kansas City on Thursday, then winds up with a pair of three-game series at Minnesota and the Royals.
Francisco Liriano (6-12) allowed all four runs and seven hits in 3 2/3 innings. He is 1-2 with a 6.30 ERA in his past seven appearances.
Kluber (2-4) gave up four hits in seven innings, retiring nine of his last 10 batters. Vinnie Pestano and Perez completed the six-hitter, with Perez gaining his 37th save in 41 chances.
“He grew a little as a pitcher today,” Indians manager Manny Acta said of Kluber. “That was a well-pitched ballgame, a crucial situation for [the Sox].”
Russ Canzler had three hits and homered for the second straight game, putting Cleveland ahead in the second inning.
Canzler doubled between a pair of walks as the Indians loaded the bases with one out in the fourth, and Thomas Neal barely beat out a potential double-play grounder as Carlos Santana scored.
Upset by first base umpire Jerry Layne’s call, Pierzynski jumped up and down at home plate.
Ezequiel Carrera and Shin-Soo Choo followed with consecutive RBI singles that chased Liriano.
Notes: Pierzynski has a career-best 27 homers. Only Carlton Fisk has more homers in a season by a Sox catcher, with 37 in 1985. ... The Sox have hit back-to-back homers 10 times this year. ... The teams are a combined 2 for 8 in steal attempts this series. ... Sox manager Robin Ventura shuffled his rotation, giving starter Jake Peavy an extra day of rest. Peavy will pitch the series opener against the Rays on Thursday, and lefty Hector Santiago (3-1, 3.45 ERA) was plugged in for the series finale against Cleveland today. The Indians start RHP Justin Masterson (11-15, 4.97). ... Ventura before the game said LHP Chris Sale was going to get an extra day of rest, but the team announced after the game that he would pitch Saturday on regular rest. ... Cleveland RHP Roberto Hernandez (sprained right ankle) will throw three innings in a simulated game today. Acta said Hernandez possibly will throw one more simulated game after that and be done for the season.