CHICAGO -- An eight-minute first inning, featuring 10 pitches from White Sox starter Chris Sale and only five from Detroit starter Rick Porcello, left the impression that Sunday's series finale on Jackie Robinson Day at U.S. Cellular Field could be completed in record time.
A little over three hours later, and the Tigers (6-3) salvaged one victory, 5-2, in this weekend set and handed the first American League Central loss in five games to the White Sox (5-3). That increase in time came in part from a White Sox comeback attempt over the last two innings against Porcello, Joaquin Benoit and Jose Valverde, where they brought the go-ahead run to the plate in the eighth and the tying run to the plate in the ninth.
But the greater contributing factor was that the quick pace Sale (1-1) was operating under in the opening frame, when he threw nine of those pitches for strikes, seemed to disappear. Sale went from that 10-pitch first to a 33-pitch second, although he was not scored upon and stranded two runners.
"You know, the team needed a better effort out of me and I just didn't show up and got outpitched," said Sale, who threw 102 pitches before being replaced by Nate Jones with nobody out and Prince Fielder on second in the sixth. "It would have been nice to feed off of that first inning and use that to my advantage. I just never really got in rhythm.
"At the end of the day, I would like to forget this one," added Sale, who struck out five and walked two, while allowing three earned runs in his first home start. "It's not a good day unless we come back with a W."
What Sale did probably wouldn't have mattered on this afternoon, mainly because of Porcello's dominance. Porcello (1-0), who became the first Tigers starter to earn a victory, didn't slow down after his lightning-quick first inning.
The White Sox (5-3) managed three hits against Porcello through two outs in the eighth. He recorded 11 outs via the ground ball and had set down 10 in a row before Dayan Viciedo went deep on a 2-2 pitch to cut the Tigers' lead to 3-1. Eduardo Escobar followed with a single, and that fifth hit off of Porcello brought in Benoit.
Benoit promptly walked Alejandro De Aza on four pitches, giving Brent Morel a chance to be a hero. Morel worked the count full, fouling off two tough offerings from Benoit, before swinging and missing at a slider outside of the zone.
Morel's 0-for-4 showing Sunday leaves him 3-for-26 to start the season with 11 strikeouts. Don't look for White Sox manager Robin Ventura to move him out of the two-slot anytime soon, based on his postgame comments.
"He's still getting his feet wet, getting comfortable there," said Ventura of Morel, who has one double and two singles. "We're still early.
"I'm not going to be moving him out of there after today. He had some tough at-bats. He's had some where he's hit well, too. We're going with him there and I feel comfortable with him there."
Gerald Laird's first home run gave the Tigers a 1-0 lead in the third. A wild pitch from Sale scored Jhonny Peralta with the game's second run in the fifth, although that scoring opportunity was set up by Laird's double landing in front of De Aza on a routine fly ball that would have been caught on most days when there aren't 17-mph wind gusts.
Fielder came home on Jones' wild pitch in the sixth, and the Tigers tacked on two insurance runs in the ninth charged to Will Ohman. A.J. Pierzynski singled home Adam Dunn, who had doubled off Valverde to start the ninth, and Alexei Ramirez's one-out single kept the White Sox alive. Valverde induced a Kosuke Fukudome groundout and fanned Viciedo to prevent the White Sox first 3-0 home start since 2004.
Ultimately, this game featured too much Porcello and not quite enough Sale.
"That was the first time a lot of us faced him," said Dunn of Porcello, who threw 70 of his 99 pitches for strikes and fanned four without a walk. "He had a really good sinker and a really good changeup. He was tough."
"We didn't play poorly or anything. They just came out and beat us," said Konerko, whose second-inning double extended his season-opening hitting streak to eight games and nine straight dating back to 2011. "They have guys who are going to get their hits and pitchers who are going to throw their good innings. They have a good team, so we'll take the two out of three and just move on."
Although their four-game winning streak came to a close, the 2012 White Sox seemed to earn a little extra respect from the AL Central favorites. Count Detroit manager Jim Leyland as one individual who believes the White Sox are more likely to be closer to first place than 95 losses when the season is complete.
"People who made those picks know nothing about baseball, trust me," Leyland said. "If they think the Chicago White Sox are not going to be in the thick of this, they're crazy.
"Since 2006, when I got here, this has been one of the best teams in the league every year. And they'll be right there. They picked us fourth last year, and we won 95 games. So don't pay any attention to them."