Homers aside, Sox defense huge in win

On a night when the Chicago White Sox hit three home runs and score six times, the biggest runs may have been the ones that the Sox defense prevented.

Brent Morel looked Joe Crede-like, making three diving plays at the hot corner, and Juan Pierre made an outstanding catch in left field with the bases loaded in the eighth inning as the Sox held on to beat the Detroit Tigers 6-4 on Friday.

“The catch from Pierre was the huge one. He misses that ball, we’re down and we’re trying to fight back,” A.J. Pierzynski said. “That play by JP was huge, along with the three diving plays [Morel] made. [The one] in the first was huge, it took that hit and a run away, gave us a chance to jump on them early.”

While the White Sox did grab a quick 1-0 lead, they squandered numerous opportunities early. Through the first three innings, they had seven men reach base and walked away with only that one run. On the night they were 2-for-12 with runners in scoring position and stranded 10 men on base.

“That was an ugly win,” Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said. “I think early in the game, I thought that [Tigers’ starter Andrew Oliver] wasn’t going to get to the second inning. All of a sudden, we didn’t take advantage of the situation. It happened a few times and made it a little tougher later in the end of the game because we didn’t produce early.”

The wasted offensive opportunities left the White Sox little margin for error. But that margin increased by one run after Pierre followed up his web gem with a homer in the bottom of the eighth inning, giving the Sox a two-run cushion. It was only Pierre’s second home run in a White Sox uniform -- his first since Aug. 3, 2010, also against the Tigers.

Though his lack of power has long been accepted, Pierre’s meager .320 on-base percentage in the leadoff spot numerous defensive gaffes have prompted some to call for his benching in favor of the surging Brent Lillibridge. Without Pierre’s heroics in the eighth, the cries for Lillibridge may have only gotten louder, as Lillibridge homered for the seventh time in only 69 at-bats.

Guillen knows his much-maligned left fielder has had his issues, but he is convinced that sticking with him will pay off.

“[The] last couple years in April, Juan has struggled on the field offensively and defensively. All of a sudden he turns it around,” Guillen said. “I keep saying, I never give up on Juan, never will. The guy works hard, shows up every day to win. He’s going to be in the lineup no matter what.”

On a recent upswing, the White Sox could continue to creep towards contention in the AL Central. They sit just seven games behind the Cleveland Indians -- who are starting to fall back to earth, losing seven of their last 10 games -- for first place.

One big key to the White Sox success would be for slugger Adam Dunn to get back on track. Dunn, hitting just .182 on the season, finally snapped his hitless streak at 0-for-40 against lefties as he legged out an infield single off Tigers reliever Charlie Furbush.

“It was awesome,” Dunn said, jokingly. “Really one of my career highlights.”

All kidding aside, if Dunn starts to produce, the White Sox offense could develop into the fearsome force that was expected coming into the season.

“We’re just waiting on Adam to go,” Pierzynski said. “When Adam goes, this lineup can be as good as any in lineup there is in baseball.”