The Chicago White Sox have more than 60 games to catch up to the Detroit Tigers and defend their AL Central title.
White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen, though, doesn’t want to wait.
Paul Konerko hit a two-run homer in Chicago’s four-run first, Gordon Beckham added a solo home run the next inning and the White Sox coasted to a 5-1 win Sunday night over the Detroit Tigers and avoided a sweep.
“People didn’t realize how big this game was,” Guillen said. “We didn’t play well here, and if we lose this one, we’re four games out. Now it is just two. That’s big.
“It gives us some momentum mentally.”
Clayton Richard (4-3) allowed only a run on five hits over eight innings to help the White Sox salvage a four-game series that started with them tied atop the AL Central with Detroit. The Tigers lead Chicago by two games and the Minnesota Twins by four.
Richard gave up one run for the second straight game, creating a good problem for White Sox general manager Kenny Williams and Guillen.
“The last two outings, the kid has been great,” Guillen said. “He’s gotten to the point where I am going to have to sit down (Monday) with Kenny and see what we can do.
“Right now, it’s like we have a six-man rotation, and I don’t want that, but he’s been pitching well.”
The Tigers, meanwhile, insist they’re not concerned with their slumping rookie on the mound.
Rick Porcello (9-7) gave up five runs and five hits over 5 1-3 innings. He has allowed 19 earned runs in his last four starts after giving up 16 earned runs in the previous 10 outings.
Detroit manager Jim Leyland said the Tigers knew they would have to live with inconsistent results from the 20-year-old Porcello.
“A hanging breaking ball or giving up a home run, that’s part of the game, this guy is not Bob Feller,” Leyland said.
But Leyland said it was “inexcusable,” to see Porcello not standing on first base when shortstop Adam Everett – who was charged with an error – threw to him to on a potential double play in the first inning.
That mental mistake was part of Porcello’s rough start.
He loaded the bases with two singles and a walk. Jim Thome followed with a fielder’s choice to drive in the first run and the second one came on Everett’s wide throw that might’ve been caught had the pitcher done his job.
Konerko then took advantage of a 3-1 count by sending a pitch 402 feet to left-center, snapping an 0-for-13 slump and putting the White Sox ahead 4-0 with his 19th homer.
After Porcello needed 31 pitches to get out of the first inning, Richard retired the Tigers in order with just nine pitches in the home half to set the tone.
Beckham’s solo shot to left was his fourth homer of the year and provided Clayton with more than enough support.
“Thank God we had that first inning because after that we didn’t do much against that kid,” Guillen said. “That just shows you that pitching is very important.”
Detroit’s lone run came in the fourth on Ryan Raburn‘s fielder’s choice, scoring Magglio Ordonez, who had two hits.
“I’m just trying to take advantage of the opportunity,” Richard said after his 14th start and 26th appearance. “There’s not much I can do about anything but how I pitch. If I’m starting or coming out of the pen, I have to take advantage of that chance. Baseball is a fun game, and I’m going to enjoy this.”
The Tigers lost for just the 16th time in 47 home games, but know they need to improve their 21-29 mark on the road heading into trips to Texas and Cleveland.
“We talked about that,” Detroit catcher Gerald Laird acknowledged. “If we can play better on the road, we’ll be in a better situation.”
Richard, a former Michigan quarterback, said he chatted with some former college friends before the game. … Leyland lashed out at trading-deadline rumors and reports, adding the team isn’t interested in trading for Milton Bradley of the Chicago Cubs. … Tigers RHP Joel Zumaya (shoulder) is encouraged about his chances to pitch again this season after fearing his year was finished. … Detroit had a chance to sweep the White Sox in a four-game series at home for the first time since 1988. … Tigers RHP Casey Fien made his major league debut.