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White Sox’ lead back to 1 after Gavin Floyd stumbles in 5th

A.J. Pierzynski (left) Prince Fielder watch Fielder’s three-run homer seventh. | Richard A. Chapman~Sun-Times

A.J. Pierzynski (left) and Prince Fielder watch Fielder’s three-run homer in the seventh. | Richard A. Chapman~Sun-Times

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Updated: October 15, 2012 9:34AM

Gavin Floyd came off the disabled list to a big challenge — opposing red-hot right-hander Max Scherzer in the White Sox’ pivotal series against the Detroit Tigers. For four innings on Wednesday night, he more than held his own.

The Sox needed a little more.

If not from Floyd, then the bullpen, which was done in by the Tigers and Prince Fielder in Detroit’s 8-6 victory before 30,667 fans at U.S. Cellular Field.

Fielder jumped on a mistake pitch by left-hander Leyson Septimo for a three-run homer in the seventh inning that gave the Tigers a 6-1 lead.

“He just hung a slider,’’ catcher A.J. Pierzynski said. “We did a real good job getting Prince out the first 21/2 games. On 3-1, he hung a slider, and Prince didn’t miss it. That’s what good hitters do, and that’s why he gets paid awesome.’’

That homer, Fielder’s 26th, looked even bigger when the Sox were battling back in the eighth and ninth innings. Kevin Youkilis’ second homer of the night, a three-run shot against Joaquin Benoit in the eighth, cut the Tigers’ lead to 8-5. After Alexei Ramirez’s RBI ground out in the ninth against closer Jose Valverde, Dan Johnson singled with two outs to bring the tying run to the plate, but second baseman Orlando Hudson struck out for the third time to end the game.

The victory cut the Sox’ lead in the American League Central to one game. With ace Chris Sale opposing Cy Young winner Justin Verlander on Thursday, the Sox need a win to split the four-game series.

“No, there’s no moral victories any more,’’ Pierzynski said. “It’s about winning and losing. ... We need to come out and win the game [Thursday], and we’re back where we started before the series with four games off the schedule.’’

There are no moral victories, but if there is a silver lining, it was Floyd’s first four innings. After striking out seven and retiring 11 straight hitters, Floyd gave up a smash single by Brennan Boesch that hopped over Youkilis’ glove, and he walked Jhonny Peralta to put a three-run inning in motion.

Floyd, who was on the DL with an elbow flexor strain, had his good curveball and commanded it in the strike zone. But after Austin Jackson’s RBI single in the fifth gave the Tigers a 2-1 lead, manager Robin Ventura pulled him in favor of left-hander Hector Santiago.

Floyd threw 70 pitches, about 20 more than his recent side session that prepped him for this start. He said he felt “no pain, so that was a big plus.’’

Ventura needed his bullpen to do the rest, and it didn’t deliver.

Santiago, listed as Friday’s starter in the first of a three-game series against the Twins in Minnesota, walked Andy Dirks before giving up an RBI single to Miguel Cabrera that made it 3-1. All three runs were charged to Floyd.

In the seventh, Ventura went to rookie righty Brian Omogrosso and Septimo to keep the Sox within reach. While some wondered where Donnie Veal or veteran Matt Thornton were in that situation, Ventura said it was too early for Thornton, who might have been needed later.

“Yeah, there just comes a time you’re using Donnie every night and you end up using him later,’’ Ventura said. “Prince has seen him a few times now. You’re looking for a different look.”

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