Yahoo! Sports: AL Central circus
Contreras pitched a three-hitter for first major league shutout, beating the team with the best record in baseball Friday night as the White Sox rocked rookie Justin Verlander in a 5-0 win over the Detroit Tigers.
“The shutout is not as big a deal as the victory,” Contreras said through an interpreter. “It was huge game. I was going to go up against the best team in the league, the Detroit Tigers, and going up against their best pitcher, right now probably one of the best pitchers in the game.”
Jim Thome and A.J. Pierzynski hit two-run homers in the fifth off Verlander, who gave up a season-high 13 hits in just five innings as the White Sox cut Detroit’s lead in the AL Central to 7 1/2 games and sent the Tigers to their third straight loss.
“I think our approach was pretty good and we were fortunate he left some balls in the zone,” Thome said. “He has very good stuff and with him, you want to eliminate him getting in a groove and rolling.”
“It was one of those nights where we just couldn’t get anything going on him. He just had his best stuff,” Casey said.
Asked if it was the best game he’d pitched in the majors, Contreras said he wasn’t sure.
“I’ve had big games I think in the second half last year and first half this year,” he said. “But this is my first time in the United States throwing nine and no one scoring on me, so I guess it is a pretty important game.”
Contreras, who was 11-2 for Chicago in the second half of last season and then 3-1 in the postseason, pitched his first professional shutout since leaving Cuba and starting his career in 2003.
“I haven’t had many in the U.S,” Contreras said. “But I had a lot in Cuba.”
Verlander (14-5), who was working after a nine-day layoff so he could get extra rest, failed in his bid to become the majors’ first 15-game winner and lost for the first time since Chicago beat him June 7.
The hard-throwing rookie was 7-0 in his previous nine starts. He is now 0-3 this season against the White Sox.
“It was a bad outing. I had good stuff, but it doesn’t really matter,” Verlander said. “I gave up five runs in five innings. … Thome hit a great pitch, a changeup, and it caught a little bit more of the plate than I would have liked.”
Thome’s 35th homer came in the fifth and followed a single by Tadahito Iguchi, putting Chicago ahead up 3-0. One out later, Jermaine Dye singled and Pierzynski sent his 10th homer into the seats in right.
“They roughed him up tonight because they stayed on his pitches,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. “They’re a good hitting team, they’re a good two-strike hitting team.”
Verlander’s errant pickoff throw in the third allowed Scott Podsednik, who had singled, to move all the way to third. Iguchi had an RBI grounder.
Detroit has a big lead, but the teams play nine more times this season.
“A lot of things can happen. It will not be easy,” White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said. “But nothing is impossible.”
Thome’s 35 homers are the most by a left-handed hitter in White Sox history. He had been tied with Robin Ventura, who hit 34 in 1996. … Thome’s homer was the 465th of his career, tying him with Hall of Famer David Winfield for 27th place on baseball’s career list. … Verlander’s previous high in hits allowed was nine. … White Sox SS Juan Uribe missed his sixth straight game because of a stiff back. … The White Sox have won seven of 10 against Detroit this season. … Contreras is 8-3 in his career against the Tigers, including 3-1 this season.