CHICAGO -- Remember when Tigers manager Jim Leyland was talking about the good pitching the Tigers had managed to grind through during their homestand? The good pitching, and even better game plans, caught up to them on Chicago's South Side.
"This is why I was telling everybody, 'Don't get too excited,'" he said after Saturday's 5-1 loss to the White Sox. "We faced eight real good pitchers. You don't wear out good pitching. It just doesn't happen."
The only grinding at the plate Saturday, aside from Austin Jackson's three-hit day, was the sound of Leyland's fork scraping across and around his dinner as he talked about Detroit's second straight loss and back-to-back low-scoring outputs.
The Tigers' fall out of first place, meaningless as it is in April, was comparatively quiet. It's a technicality, with Chicago's 5-2 mark placing them a half-game up on Detroit (5-3), but it at least ends the question among optimistic fans whether the Tigers would lead the division from wire to wire.
The last two games themselves have proven that it won't always come easy for this offense.
In crediting White Sox starter Gavin Floyd of six innings of holding the Tigers hitless aside from Jackson's three hits, Leyland hinted that he wasn't happy with the approach.
"He took advantage of our aggressiveness," Leyland said. "We swung at a lot of balls [outside the strike zone]. ... We're an aggressive team, and when you swing at balls, you make outs."
It was a bizarre, cruel twist that the starting pitcher the Tigers knocked out was their own, the product of a freak foul ball off the bat of Prince Fielder that struck Adam Wilk flush on his throwing shoulder as he sat in the dugout. The Tigers took him out as a precaution, ending what had the makings of a quality start with five innings of two-run ball on three hits, two of them solo homers.
The way it turned out, Wilk could've held them down the next few innings and still not gotten out of the hard-luck loss he took. The White Sox pitching didn't let up, striking out eight batters over nine innings.
Six of those came from Floyd, who improved to 7-2 for his career against Detroit.
"I was just trying to make pitches," he said. "Certain situations where I got a couple of runners on and bases loaded, I acted like it was a situation where I needed to make good, quality pitches and try to get them to get out. I just trusted in that and tried to rely on my focus."
What had been the highest-scoring team in the league entering Saturday with 42 runs, averaging six runs a game, has scored three runs in two games in Chicago, where Detroit won six out of nine games in 2011 to help capture the American League Central.
Even so, Jackson's day gave them chances at big innings. If Floyd's success rested on getting hitters to chase pitches out of the strike zone, Jackson's success against him is an impressive statement. His singles in the first and third innings came on 1-2 counts. So was his sixth-inning double, a liner into the gap that he turned into an extra-base hit with an aggressive start out of the box.
If Jackson's challenge this season was to set the table for a productive offense, he was at the top of his game Saturday.
Floyd erased him from the basepaths after the singles -- first on a Brennan Boesch double play, then on a fielder's choice. Back-to-back two-out walks to Fielder and Delmon Young advanced Jackson and loaded the bases, but after Avila wouldn't offer at a first pitch in the dirt, Floyd got him to foul off two fastballs before getting a swing and miss on a cutter to end the threat.
"In those situations where we had the ability to get ahead, he made good pitches in those situations," Jackson said. "You've got to give credit to him. We definitely had the opportunities, but he made good pitches."
Wilk challenged hitters all afternoon, reaching just a pair of three-ball counts. He stayed out of situations where he had to serve up a hittable pitch, but had two he left up in the strike zone.
One was an offspeed pitch to Alexei Ramirez in the second inning for his first home run. The other was a fifth-inning fastball to Tyler Flowers, who drove it 423 feet to left for his first homer.
"I felt I threw the ball pretty well," Wilk said. "I made a couple of mistakes, and they made both of them pay. I was just trying to keep the team in the game, give them a chance to win, just came up on the losing side today."