Chicago — There were two storms threatening to hit U.S. Cellular Field Thursday night.
The first one was atmospheric. Severe thunderstorms were barreling down on downtown Chicago.
The other one was the Tigers’ offense.
The first one hit in the middle of the seventh inning and did not relent.
The second one touched down briefly in the fifth inning — just long enough to give the Tigers a 2-1, rain-shortened win.
“We don’t get too many of these in the course of a season,” manager Brad Ausmus said. “But a win is a win. We will take it.”
The rains came after the Tigers batted in the top of the seventh inning. The two teams sat in their respective clubhouses and waited out a two-hour, five-minute delay before umpiring crew chief Jeff Nelson finally called it off.
“I would have liked for it to be called sooner, but I know it’s a tough decision to make in a one-run game,” Ausmus said. “It’s not easy to call off a game in that situation. But they said there would be at least another two hours of rain. So we weren’t upset by it, but it doesn’t make for an easy decision for the umpires.”
About that second storm, the one that only briefly touched down.
Back on June 13, the Tigers scored seven runs in three innings against White Sox right-hander James Shields. They were stinging the ball all over the yard off him Thursday, too, but until the fifth inning had nothing to show for it.
“I was getting a little frustrated,” Ausmus said. “It’s been a couple days in a row now we’ve hit some balls hard. They just seem to be right at someone or in the air long enough to be run down. As a player, you can get frustrated. It’s what makes baseball so difficult mentally. You can do everything right and still not get the results.”
Ian Kinsler said the frustration comes more from hanging zeros inning after inning. Until the fifth Thursday, the Tigers had scored just four runs in 31 innings.
“Yeah, being unable to score is the frustrating part,” Kinsler said. “If you are hitting the ball on the nose and making outs, that’s just part of the game. It’s a tough game, a weird game. Sometimes you go through stretches like that.
“But if you continue to have good at-bats and give yourselves chances to score, it’s going to happen.”
The Tigers’ offense was a little like the thunderstorm, you could feel it rolling in.
They left the bases loaded in the third. With runners on second and third, Miguel Cabrera hit a shot that was snared by second baseman Brett Lawrie.
“Five feet to either side of him and two runs score,” Ausmus said.
In the fourth inning, Jarrod Saltalamacchia flew out to the wall in right-center field. Mike Aviles followed with a shot to the wall in left field that was caught.
Jose Iglesias led off the fifth with a liner that was caught in center field. Three straight bullets, all into the glove of a White Sox defender.
Finally, Kinsler, who went 3-for-4, smacked one where nobody was playing — in the seats behind the wall in left-center.
It was Kinsler’s 20th home run of the season, his first 20-homer season since 2011.
After Cameron Maybin flew out to the wall in right field, Cabrera followed with his 19th home run of the season and first since June 29. He hit it 422 feet to left-center.
“It was just a matter of time for Miggy,” Kinsler said. “He’s a great hitter for a reason.”
It was Cabrera’s fourth hit in his last seven at-bats.
“He looked good in batting practice,” Ausmus said. “It looked like his swing was easy again. I didn’t look like there was a lot of effort and he took it right into the game.”
But just as fast as those two streaks of lightning hit, it was over.
And thanks to a solid outing from Mike Pelfrey, it was enough.
Coming off his worst start of the season (five runs in 1.2 innings), Pelfrey allowed just one run over 5.1 innings. He got double-play ground balls in the first and third and all told, enduced nine ground ball outs.
“I threw a lot more strikes than I did the last outing,” Pelfrey said. “I had good life on the fastball, good sink. And the guys turned a couple double plays behind me. ...I felt better today. I had a better idea where the ball was going.”
It was his first road victory since May 8, 2015 — 23 road starts.
“I think on the whole I’ve pitched a lot better on the road this year than at home,” Pelfrey said. “Still, it’s good to get that first win.”
The White Sox scored their run in the third on a double by Adam Eaton and a single by Tim Anderson. Eaton came into the game with a .331 career average against the Tigers and got three more hits Thursday. He is 11-for-17 against them this season.
Pelfrey was at 87 pitches with one out in the sixth when he walked Justin Morneau to put two on.
“I would have liked to have kept going,” Pelfrey said. “But the move paid off.”
Ausmus brought in Shane Greene to face Todd Frazier. Greene struck out Frazier on a wicked off-speed pitch. But he hit Tyler Saladino in the back to load the bases.
Greene then got quickly ahead of J.B. Shuck and got him to ground meekly to first.
It was Greene’s second save of the season. His first was in the 11th inning and this one in the sixth.
“Every game is important,” said Pelfrey, who was asked about the heightened sense of urgency as the trade deadline approaches. “Everybody in here, we want to win. Whether they add somebody or don’t add somebody. I know we should be getting Jordan Zimmermann back and we should be getting J.D. Martinez back.
“I don’t think any team in baseball is getting two guys of that caliber.”