CHICAGO — Detroit manager Jim Leyland knows his team still has 16 games to overtake the Chicago White Sox and win the AL Central.
Won’t be easy, but it’s doable.
“I certainly don’t think this thing is anywhere near over, but we have to win games,” Leyland said Monday after the Tigers lost to the White Sox 5-4 in their final meeting of the season.
“There’s plenty of time if you win games. If you don’t win games, then you run out of time,” the veteran manager said. “But if you win games, there’s plenty of time.”
Detroit had a 3-0 lead early in Monday’s makeup game but couldn’t hold it. And then second baseman Omar Infante made a costly throwing error on a potential double play when he was hit on a hard slide by Chicago’s Alex Rios.
The tying and go-ahead runs scored on the play and Chicago’s bullpen did the rest, pitching five innings of shutout baseball.
When Dayan Viciedo hit a one-out grounder to short, the Tigers tried to turn the inning-ending double play, but Rios’ slide forced an errant throw from Infante that got by Prince Fielder as two runs scored, giving Chicago the lead.
“Rios got down there pretty good, we just didn’t get the turn. Maybe if (Infante) could have come across the bag more,” Leyland said. “It was a tough double play. Rios got down there. When he hit it, I thought it was a sure double play.”
Infante, who also made a costly error last Monday that helped the White Sox to a win, but offered no excuses.
“It’s hard to do. It’s hard to throw once he hit me,” Infante said. “I have to make the throw. I feel bad because I’ve made a lot of errors knowing the team needed different.”
The game had been postponed by rain last Thursday and Monday’s makeup was the final meeting of the season between the two front runners in the division.
Detroit won the season series 12-6 and captured nine of the final 11 games between the teams, including two of three last week before the four-game series finale was postponed.
Chicago heads to Kansas City and Anaheim to finish out this week while Detroit goes home to face the Athletics and Twins.
“There is still a lot of time left for both teams. … We just got to continue to grind and hope that what we do every day, day in and day out, is enough,” Beckham said. “This is probably still going to go down to the wire.”
Rios’ fifth-inning slide was the talk of the locker room after the game as was Chicago’s bullpen that pitched five scoreless innings after starter Jose Quintana struggled.
“That was a tough play for that second baseman to make that turn. I’ve been there before,” Beckham said. “It’s everything you can do to just get it off. What a great slide and I just told him (Rios) that might be the play of the year so far. Pretty special.”
Rios said his slide was clear and replays backed him up.
“That’s a situation where every second baseman knows we’re coming in hard,” he said.
Nate Jones (8-0) pitched 2 2-3 innings of one-hit relief and the White Sox won their fourth straight. Addison Reed, the last of three relievers in the ninth, got the final out for his 27th save in 31 chances.
Trailing 4-3, the White Sox loaded the bases for a third straight inning in the fifth, driving out Detroit starter Doug Fister (9-9).
Delmon Young drove in three runs for the Tigers with a pair of singles, but Detroit couldn’t hold on to an early 3-0 lead. Tigers pitchers walked six and hit two batters.
“We just have to go out there and try to win ballgames and try to get within a game the last week,” Young said of Detroit’s chances.
Neither starter got out of the fifth. Quintana, who beat the Tigers a week ago in his previous start, gave up seven hits and four runs in four. And Fister, who defeated the White Sox last Tuesday, gave up eight hits and five runs — four — earned, also in four innings.
“I was a little concerned. Watching Dougie, you could tell he wasn’t crisp early on,” Leyland said.
Notes: Young, who had seven RBIs when the Tigers swept a series from the White Sox earlier this month in Detroit, has 28 RBIs in 40 games at U.S. Cellular Field. .. Tigers C Alex Avila was out of the starting lineup after colliding with Fielder on Sunday chasing a pop in Cleveland. He got a headache after batting practice.