DETROIT — The bruised and battered White Sox didn’t stand much chance against Justin Verlander.
They put up a valiant effort against Verlander’s bullpen, but the Detroit Tigers ace had control and his offense delivered early in an 8-6 win over the White Sox in front of 24,976 at Comerica Park.
Pitching in the place of injured Chris Sale, Charlie Leesman couldn’t escape the third inning as Ian Kinsler and Miguel Cabrera delivered. Jose Abreu and Adam Dunn homered in the losing effort for the White Sox, who, including Sale, were without four Opening Day starters.
“You’d like (Leesman) to go a little further but they were hitting him around pretty good,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “You have to have guys be able to fill in and tonight wasn’t the night.”
Leesman was promoted from Triple-A Charlotte on Tuesday after the White Sox placed Sale on the 15-day disabled list with a flexor muscle strain in his left arm.
His first start of the season was rocky from the outset as Kinsler and Cabrera had back-to-back doubles in the first inning to tie the score at 1.
Leesman got through the second inning but Detroit’s offense broke a 1-all game open in the third. Kinsler doubled in two runs to give the Tigers a 3-1 lead before Cabrera launched a two-run homer to right, his second homer of the season. Victor Martinez doubled for Detroit’s fifth straight hit to open the inning and he latered scored on a Nick Castellanos sacrifice fly. After Alex Avila, who had three hits, singled, Leesman exited with two outs.
Leesman allowed six earned runs and nine hits with one walk over 2 2/3 innings.
“Everybody expects the Sale/Verlander matchup and then they see this: ‘Who’s Leesman?’ ” Leesman said. “But I go into it as serious as anything else. Just a rough one. Detroit is a good team. Can’t take that away one through nine. Just have to avoid that big inning and tonight was the third.”
Verlander knew what to do with the five-run lead.
Ventura described the two-time Cy Young winner as going into “power-save mode” as he toned down the velocity and worked more with offspeed pitches.
Verlander got an inning-ending double play off Tyler Flowers’ bat in the second and retired 10 of 13 into the sixth inning. By the time the White Sox scored again on singles by Abreu, Dayan Viciedo, who had a career-best four hits and walked, and Alexei Ramirez, Verlander held an 8-1 lead.
Verlander allowed two earned runs and eight hits with two walks and seven strikeouts over seven innings.
“If you give an ace that many runs, they’re all good pitchers,” Dunn said. “If you don’t get them early they going to get better later and that’s exactly what happened.”
Abreu originally gave the White Sox a 1-0 lead in the first inning when he deposited a 1-0 fastball from Verlander over the fence in center for his sixth homer. Abreu had two hits in three trips and is now 8-for-16 since Sunday.
The White Sox — who are already without six players off their Opening Day-roster — added another run in the eighth inning on a bases-loaded sacrifice fly by Alejandro De Aza.
Paul Koneko got his first hit since Opening Day, a two-out RBI single in the ninth, to make it 8-4. Adam Dunn then ended a 13 at-bat hitless stretch and cut the lead to two with a two-run homer off Phil Coke to right field, his fourth.
Viciedo walked against Joba Chamberlain but Ramirez flew out to left field to end the game.
Conor Gillaspie became the latest regular to miss time as he sat out Tuesday’s game with a sore left hand. Gillaspie expects to also miss Wednesday’s game.
The White Sox were also without leadoff hitter Adam Eaton, who has a mild lower left hamstring strain, for a third straight game.
Sale is the sixth White Sox player to be placed on the DL this season. He joins Gordon Beckham, who is rehabbing at Double-A Birmingham, Jeff Keppinger, who is at extended spring training, Nate Jones, who hasn’t returned to the team, Felipe Paulino and Avisail Garcia, who is out for the season.
The White Sox will be hard-pressed to replace Sale, who is 3-0 with a 2.30 ERA in four starts this season. The two-time All-Star was placed on the DL retroactive to Friday and could come off on May 3 at Cleveland.
Ventura didn’t say whether or not Leesman would get another start in Sale’s stead.
“He was just up in the zone and they were swinging it,” Ventura said. “We had to go to Put early. The bullpen did a nice job of coming in and calming things down, being able to get through it. It was just pretty short.”