The White Sox need only to follow the script American League Central leader Detroit has used to snap out of their second-half slump.
The Tigers extended their first-place lead Thursday to a season-high 5½ games with clutch pitching, timely hitting and aggressive play to hand the Sox and Jose Contreras a frustrating 2-1 loss at Comerica Park.
"I don't say it was embarrassing, but it was disappointing," manager Ozzie Guillen said in admitting the Sox were outplayed in this series. "We have a better club than this. We should be playing better, and all the guys should know about it.
"Everyone is disappointed, not because of Detroit, but since the All-Star Game we haven't played well."
The Sox are 1-5 since the break and have lost 3½ games in the standings. Moreover, third-place Minnesota is only four games behind them in the AL Central.
"We have to not worry about anyone else," third baseman Joe Crede said. "Once we take care of business, we'll see where we stand in September."
Crede scoffed at a reporter who asked if his stare at Joel Zumaya after striking out on a 99 m.p.h. pitch in the eighth was a sign of disrespect after the excitable Tigers' rookie reliever pumped his fist several times.
"Hopefully when he gets his [rear] kicked, he can take it," said Guillen, who said he liked Zumaya's emotion and velocity. "He's not going to be that good all his life."
But the Tigers (64-31) gave the Sox (58-36) plenty to ponder until their next series starting Aug. 21, from Craig Monroe's oral shots at Javier Vazquez and A.J. Pierzynski to Marcus Thames' slide that clipped second baseman Tadahito Iguchi to break up a potential inning-ending double play and set up Craig Shelton's game-winning RBI double in the seventh.
"That's the way to play," Guillen said of Thames' slide. "That's the way people should be playing."
Shelton's hit, Pudge Rodriguez's game-tying hit in the sixth and Monroe's game-winning grand slam Wednesday were clutch hits that eluded the Sox the last two games and wiped out narrow leads.
Sox starters held Detroit to eight runs but were 1-2 in the series because of poor offensive support. The top four hitters in the Sox lineup were a combined 0-for-29 in the final two games of the series.
The Sox wasted No. 9 hitter Brian Anderson's three-hit game Thursday.
Crede had an RBI single in the fourth off Kenny Rogers, but Juan Uribe popped to first and Chris Widger flied to left with the bases loaded to kill a rally.
Before the game, Monroe said it was only natural for the Tigers to get excited at the chance to beat the Sox. Then he questioned Pierzynski sticking out his elbow after had had crossed home plate on his grand slam Wednesday night and insisted he didn't apologize in his next at-bat, as Pierzynski had said. Monroe thought Pierzynski was trying to play mind games.
"I said, 'Seriously, putting your elbow up, was an elbow necessary?'" Monroe told Detroit reporters.
" The bottom line is, everyone in baseball knows that's A.J. being A.J. He likes confrontation. Let's be honest. He likes to play this role like he's so tough. That act is just tired."
Monroe's comments baffled Pierzynski.
"It's over as far as I'm concerned. I thought it was over last night. As soon as he came up and apologized and said, 'Sorry, I didn't mean to bump into you.' I was like, 'OK, that's fine.' For him to say that, it's kind of bush league that he basically changed his complete story."
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