CHICAGO – A late rally that saw the White Sox score five runs in the final two innings and bring the tying run to the plate in the ninth meant very little to A.J. Pierzynski after another loss to the Detroit Tigers.
"There's no such thing as a moral victory," Pierznyski said following an 8-6 loss that cut Chicago's lead to one game in the AL Central. "We need to come out and win the game tomorrow and we're right back where we started this four-game series with four games less on the schedule."
Chicago ran into a tough pitcher for the second straight night. Max Scherzer was strong for six innings, following an effective performance by Doug Fister the night before. After losing the opener, Detroit has won two straight in the final four-game series between the two division leaders.
And now Detroit will send out ace Justin Verlander in the finale Thursday night against Chicago ace Chris Sale in a rematch of their showdown on Sept. 2 — won by Verlander.
"We're going to have to win games after tomorrow, too," Chicago manager Robin Ventura said. "We're going to face good pitchers just like him (Verlander). ... Scherzer pitched great, there was nothing going on there. You just continue to play. We're not quitting at any point. That's the one great thing about the team, they're not going to get down where they're giving up."
Scherzer (16-6) set a career high for wins, struck out seven to increase his major league-leading total to 220 and improved to 10-1 over his last 14 starts. The only run he allowed was on the first of two homers by Kevin Youkilis.
With Detroit leading 3-1, Prince Fielder hit a three-run homer in the seventh and the Tigers held off a late Chicago rally to beat the White Sox for the ninth time in the last 10 games.
"It's really big. If we just focus on trying to play good baseball, it should work out," Fielder said. "It feels like every time we score, they score and vice versa, but that's what happens. Anytime you have two good teams, you know it's not gonna be easy. Fortunate for us, we were able to beat them in the final round."
Fielder hit his 26th homer in the seventh against lefty reliever Leyson Septimo, snapping a 0-for-18 slump and giving Detroit a 6-1 lead. The drive to right followed two-out singles by Andy Dirks and Miguel Cabrera.
Even though another White Sox lefty, Donnie Veal had, retired Fielder twice during the series, Septimo got the call this time. Ventura said he wanted to give Fielder a different look than what he would get from Veal.
"I knew a lefty was coming, they're all the same. It's a lefty, they're all tough," Fielder said.
"We had done a really good job of getting Prince out for the first 2 1/ 2 games and he hung a slider and Prince didn't miss it," Pierzynski said. "That's what good hitters do and that's why he gets paid also."
The Tigers added two more runs in the eighth on RBI doubles by Alex Avila and Austin Jackson.
Youkilis hit his second homer of the game, a three-run shot off Joaquin Benoit in the eighth, to get the White Sox within three runs. Youkilis has 18 homers, 14 of them since he was acquired in a trade with Boston in late June. He entered the game in a 3-for-34 slump.
Jose Valverde allowed two hits and a run the ninth on Alexei Ramirez's grounder before getting Orlando Hudson on a called third strike for his 30th save in 34 chances.
Chicago starter Gavin Floyd (9-10), activated from the disabled list (elbow strain) earlier in the day, pitched well for the first four innings but gave up three runs in the fifth.
"I went out there, wasn't sure how my arm would react to sitting, going out there, sitting, going out there. Felt no pain, so that was a big plus," Floyd said. "Felt good. Fifth inning, they got a couple hits, I mean, that's just the way it went. "
Floyd threw 70 pitches in his first start since Aug. 26. He gave up four hits and was charged with three runs to go with a walk and seven strikeouts.
NOTES: Floyd fell to 7-3 lifetime against the Tigers. ... White Sox DH Adam Dunn sat out his sixth straight game with a right oblique strain.