CHICAGO -- If the White Sox hope of contending with the American League Central favorite Tigers is to become a season-long reality, then they might want to study the blueprint laid out during Friday's 5-2 victory at U.S. Cellular Field.
During their fifth straight home-opening victory, before a sellout crowd of 38,676, the White Sox (4-2) received a dominant starting effort from Jake Peavy (1-0) over 6 2/3 innings. He received support out of the bullpen from Addison Reed, Matt Thornton and Hector Santiago (third save).
The offense pushed across three runs against Max Scherzer (0-1) and then added on in the eighth inning when the Tigers (5-2) had crept to within one. And that lead stayed at one because of spectacular defensive efforts from left fielder Dayan Viciedo and the double-play combination of Alexei Ramirez and Gordon Beckham.
To get a true gauge, though, of the White Sox style of play under first-year manager Robin Ventura, simply check out a moment involving franchise staples Paul Konerko and A.J. Pierzynski in the sixth inning. Konerko, who had just singled home the second run, raced around from first and barely beat the relay throw home from second baseman Ryan Raburn on what was ruled a triple for Pierzynski.
Yes, neither player is exactly blessed with world-class speed. They were simply trying to keep the pressure on the Tigers. Third-base coach Joe McEwing received praise from both players for being aggressive in the situation.
"That doesn't happen a whole lot," said Pierzynski of the speed combination with Konerko. "I was excited because it was a big run in the game, and for Paul to score from first ... It's good to see. I like Joe waving him and being aggressive, and it worked out."
"You are always supposed to run hard until they stop you at third, but I'm usually getting the stop sign for sure," Konerko said. "Joe Mac was wheeling me around and I was a little bit curious about that. I was wondering what the heck was going on."
A third straight AL Central victory is what was going on in the big picture Friday, with Peavy getting the best of Scherzer. Peavy yielded just one hit into the seventh, until a one-out walk to Miguel Cabrera and a 1-2 homer launched one out later down the left-field line by Delmon Young cut the White Sox lead to one.
Young's blast was Peavy's lone mistake on the day. He wasn't worried about velocity as much as getting the Tigers swinging with both his fastball and offspeed stuff among his eight strikeouts.
Scherzer fanned 11 in six innings. The White Sox struck out 15 times as a team, marking just the eighth time in franchise history the South Siders have swung and missed that many times and still won. But the solid pitching had as much to do with the hitting as the men swinging the bats.
"We just made pitches," Peavy said. "I had a little bit of better stuff than I had in Texas. That's a great lineup and a great team. That lineup is not going away. It's an encouraging day when you go out and make pitches against that team and keep them at bay for the most part."
"I pitched well, but I also made a couple big mistakes in the sixth inning there, allowing them to get the extra two runs," Scherzer said. "If you're going to go up against a guy like Peavy, you have to match him pitch for pitch. That's the ones where you go back and you want to execute better against Konerko and Pierzynski."
Peavy departed after 94 pitches, and the White Sox lead quickly evaporated in that seventh. That can happen when facing a power-packed lineup such as Detroit. Left-handed-hitting Alex Avila singled to center against left-handed reliever Will Ohman, and Jhonny Peralta dropped a double over third baseman Brent Morel against Addison Reed.
Reed held a 1-2 advantage on Andy Dirks, before Dirks launched what looked like a go-ahead double down the left-field line. But Viciedo made a diving catch to end the inning and keep the lead at one.
"My first reaction was to definitely make sure I caught the ball," said Viciedo, who homered in the fifth, through translator and White Sox director of cultural development Jackson Miranda. "Fortunately for me, [center fielder Alejandro] De Aza told me to move over for that play, and I was in the right position."
Detroit rallied again in the eighth against Reed and Matt Thornton, putting runners on first and third with one out. But Ramirez made a diving stop of Cabrera's hard-hit grounder up the middle, flipped to Gordon Beckham at second with his glove and Beckham easily doubled up Cabrera to end the inning.
"At the time of the game, where the runners were, that play had to be made if we wanted to win the game," Beckham said.
"Absolutely just a good team win. Great pitching from Peav, awesome defense and some timely hits," Konerko said. "It wasn't easy, they battled back. Just a good grinding win."
"It wasn't easy" might become the White Sox mantra before this season is complete, as their margin for error is not great. More efforts such as the one Friday, though, certainly will go a long way in sticking with the talented Tigers.
"Everybody on the field today contributed in some way," Peavy said. "That's going to be indicative of the game we have to play. It's going to be a team effort."