By Chris Vannini
DETROIT -- Despite a last gasp, the White Sox losing streak has reached 10 games, and historic proportions.
Paul Konerko homered to lead off the bottom of the ninth and tie the game and send it to extras, but Torii Hunter’s single in the bottom of the 12th off Dylan Axelrod drove home the winning run, and the Tigers walked-off with a 3-2 win.
It’s the first time in franchise history that Chicago failed to win a game on a road trip of at least seven games. Sunday’s game was the third walk-off loss of the trip.
The White Sox continue to struggle putting runs on the board. They scored three runs in the three-game series in Detroit, and Sunday’s loss was the 16th in the past 19 games.
In the first inning on Sunday, the White Sox recorded three hits, four baserunners and the Tigers threw a wild pitch, but no White Sox player scored — a sign of how things have been going.
“You’ve got to be able to push them across the plate if you’re going to win,” manager Robin Ventura said. “We had them on the ropes early. The last time we faced them, it was similar. You’ve got to be able to get to them early and add on. We just weren’t able to.”
In the fourth inning, Adam Dunn broke a 15-inning scoreless drought with a solo home run to dead center that was estimated by ESPN to be 462 feet, making it one of the longest home runs in Comerica Park history. Dunn went 4-for-5. Since June 8, Dunn is hitting .308.
Making his second-career Major League start, Andre Rienzo found a groove after allowing two hits in the second inning. He retired 15 of the next 16 batters, but things unraveled in the seventh. He issued back-to-back walks to start the inning, and a double to right field from Alex Avila tied the game and abruptly ended his day.
“Really, he was sharp,” Ventura said. “He was pitching well. He just had that little blip of walking two guys. You get in trouble in a hurry when you do that. Avila hit a double and that was pretty much it right there. … He’ll learn from that. You realize you can’t just put guys on, especially with this lineup.”
Rienzo couldn’t identify what exactly went wrong in the seventh, other than just missing the strike zone. The rookie put up another quality start, but, as has been the case with White Sox starters recently, the team’s success, or failure, outweighs that.
“(The walks) hurt me and hurt the team,” he said. “It’s completely my my fault. Next time, I’ll try to be better. Six innings were good, but the seventh was bad.”
Nathan Jones came in and allowed a sacrifice fly to give the Tigers a 2-1 lead.
In the top of the eighth, Alejandro De Aza led off with a double and was sacrificed to third. But a baserunning error resulted in De Aza staying at third on a lineout to center, and Dunn struck out to end the inning.
Konerko homered to center field on the second pitch of the ninth to tie things up. It was his eighth of the season and first since June 20. He was 4-for-6 off Tigers reliever Drew Smyly entering Sunday.
“I wasn’t looking for anything specific,” Konerko said of the home run. “I know he likes to throw strikes and likes to come at guys. He got ahead of me 0-1. I was just thinking about hitting a hard ball up the middle, not a homer or anything. Just trying to be ready. He has a good arm, but he’s also sneaky. He can sneak some balls in there quickly. I was just trying to be ready to hit.”
In the top of the tenth, Tyler Flowers was walked and sacrificed over to second. Alexei Ramirez hit a flare to shortstop. Detroit’s Jhonny Peralta made a great running catch in shallow left field and doubled-up Flowers, who was running to third — another baserunning mistake, but Ventura was willing to give Flowers the benefit of the doubt on that one.
The White Sox went 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position for the day. They scored three runs in the three-game series and have scored four runs in the past four games, while the starting pitching has been good.
“A lot of times, the team that ties it late goes on to win, because you feel the momentum works for you, but that obviously didn’t happen today,” Konerko said. “I’ve got to give them credit. It’s easy to be playing well like they are, have won the first two games of the series and have the lead blown in the ninth; it’s easy to kind of throw that one away and (focus on) tomorrow. You’ve got to give credit to them for regrouping. Their bullpen did a good job. That’s why they are who they are.”