Detroit – All the right things were said before the game.
"The feeling is we still have to win games," manager Brad Ausmus said. "It's not like the Royals or even the Indians are going to roll over. ... We can't get ahead of ourselves. We haven't done anything yet. We have to win tonight."
Words without corresponding deeds — meaningless.
Rookie right-hander Chris Bassitt, making his fourth major league start, stymied the Tigers with an assortment of off-speed pitches through 7 2/3 scoreless innings, leading the White Sox to a 2-0 victory before a smallish (30,758 tickets sold) and dispirited crowd at Comerica Park.
"He threw the ball well," Ian Kinsler said. "But we expect more from ourselves. We hit a bunch of balls hard. We just couldn't get that big hit."
The Tigers had gained a half-game on their lead in the American League Central, from 1 1/2 to 2 games before a pitch was even thrown Monday, thanks to the Indians completing a 4-3 victory over the Royals in a game that was suspended earlier this season.
But they gave it back and more by the end of the night. The Royals beat the Indians 2-0 in the regularly scheduled game. So the Tigers lead is down to one game.
"We control what we do in here," Kinsler said. "If we win the rest of our games, we will be in. That's all we're worried about."
The Tigers have two games left with the White Sox and four with the Twins. And they have losing records against the two worst teams in the division — 7-8 against the Twins, 8-9 against the White Sox.
"This is competitive athletics," Ausmus said after the game. "Teams don't roll over. They have a job to do. They are trying to prove things to themselves and to their manager, general manager and coaches. They are not going to roll over and this is clear evidence."
Bassitt was perplexing. He didn't pitch above Double-A before he was called up by the White Sox and he hadn't finished seven innings in any of his other starts. In his last start against the Royals last week, he lasted 3 2/3 innings. The Tigers scored five runs against him at the end of August.
"He threw the same pitches," Kinsler said. "He just located the ball better and got ahead of the hitters."
They couldn't figure him out Monday. Their best chances to score came in the first, fourth and sixth innings.
"You just continue to play and you continue to try to develop innings and try to get hits," Kinsler said. "We gave ourselves a couple of opportunities but we couldn't get the big hit to put runs on the board."
Kinsler was safe on one of two errors shortstop Alexei Ramirez would make to start the first, but he was caught stealing. Miguel Cabrera doubled with two out and Victor Martinez was hit by a pitch.
J.D. Martinez flew out to end the threat.
The Tigers put runners on first and second again in the fourth inning with one out, but Bassitt struck out Alex Avila and induced Andrew Romine into a groundout.
In the sixth, Victor Martinez led off with a double and never moved. J.D. Martinez hit the first pitch he saw to third base. Nick Castellanos also rolled over on an off-speed pitch and grounded out to third. Avila struck out.
Six hits was all the Tigers could muster off Bassitt, and only one after the fourth. Jake Petricka fanned J.D. Martinez for the final out of the eighth.
Petricka, throwing a 94-mph fastball with good sinking action, got Castellanos, Avila and pinch hitter Tyler Collins to complete the four-out save.
Asked if the Tigers might be feeling some of the pressure of the race, Ausmus said, "No, not this group. They've been through it before. They were ready to go when the game started. There was no letdown."
Since scoring 10 runs in Kansas City last Friday, Detroit has scored five total the last three games.
Meanwhile, wasted was another strong outing by Tigers rookie Kyle Lobstein (1-1).
All the White Sox damage came in one end-of-the-order flurry in the second inning. With two outs, No. 7 hitter Carlos Sanchez doubled, No. 8 hitter Tyler Flowers hit his 15th home run of the year and No. 9 hitter Moises Sierra doubled.
From that point through the eighth, Lobstein allowed just two more hits. Good enough to win on most nights.