The Sox had several opportunities to put runs on the board in the first game of a split double-header today. However, they were unable to execute with men on and dropped the opener 5-1.
The Sox left the bases loaded in the second inning on a Gordon Beckham grounder to short and couldn't plate a run in the third either after a lead off double by Alexei Ramirez. They also only scored one run with runners on second and third with no outs.
Even after Detroit extended their lead in the seventh and eighth inning, the Sox weren't done stranding runners. After three straight singles to start the ninth inning, Beckham grounded into a double play to the pitcher and Dwayne Wise grounded out to short.
In the end it was too much Verlander as he cruised through the middle innings. Jose Contreras was solid for the Sox, but the Tigers managed to get hits when they needed them and score four runs off Jose.
The Tigers are now alone in first again entering the night cap. On the plus side they'll face the highly suspect Eddie Bonine who has allowed three homers and sixteen hits in only eight innings of work this season. However, the Sox will also be countering with a less productive starter themselves as they will be counting on Bartolo Colon to avoid the double-header sweep.
It's important for the Sox to salvage at least a split in both the double-header and this series in Detroit. They entered the series in a tie with the Tigers for first place, but could be in much worse shape if they can't pick up a few wins in Detroit.
The Sox would be two games back if they can only take one game in this series, and the schedule doesn't get any easier over the next two weeks. The Sox head to Minnesota next, a place where they've historically struggled. After that they host the Yankees for four games and the Angels for three.
This stretch of games could make or break the Sox season. If they leave Detroit with a lead in the division and can play .500 over the next two weeks, they will be well positioned to at least be a threat in the division race, if not win it.
However, if they are trailing after the Detroit series, there's a real possibility that they can slide well behind the Tigers. While the Sox go through that tough stretch of games, the Tigers will face a far more forgiving schedule, featuring Texas, Cleveland and Baltimore.
Hopefully the Sox can bounce back from a lackluster first game, because the consequences could be dire if they don't.