The Detroit Tigers inched back within a game of first place in the AL Central thanks to an 8-6 win over the Chicago White Sox on Wednesday night, Detroit’s second straight over its rival.
Just as Doug Fister did on Tuesday, Max Scherzer led the way for the Tigers in this one. Scherzer, who may be a couple of wins away from serious Cy Young consideration, struck out seven and allowed just one run on four hits over six innings to improve to 16-6 on the season. Scherzer has won six consecutive decisions and has not lost since July 30 at Boston.
The Tigers’ bats also came to life after a slow start against White Sox starter Gavin Floyd. Floyd cruised through our innings, but the Tigers struck for three in the fifth — on RBIs from Omar Infante, Austin Jackson and Miguel Cabrera — to drive Floyd from the game.
Detroit extended its lead to 6-1 in the seventh when Prince Fielder snapped an 0-for-18 skid by launching a home run to right field off reliever Leyson Septimo. RBI doubles from Alex Avila and Jackson in the eighth gave Detroit an 8-1 edge.
The Tigers needed almost all of those runs, too, as the bullpen nearly gave the game away late. Brayan Villarreal, after a scoreless seventh, walked two batters in the eighth; Joaquin Benoit relieved him and allowed an RBI single and then a three-run homer to Kevin Youkilis — Youkilis also took Scherzer deep earlier.
Benoit escaped the eighth with an 8-5 lead intact, but Jose Valverde coughed up another run in the ninth and allowed the tying run to come to the plate. But Valverde struck out Orlando Hudson looking to preserve the huge win.
Tigers’ MVP: Scherzer.
As Justin Verlander has struggled away from home — and struggled to pick up wins in general — Scherzer has carried the torch for Detroit’s pitching staff. Thursday’s game broke a string of 10 straight starts for Scherzer with eight strikeouts or more, and he was still plenty good enough to get the victory.
Tigers’ Goat: Joaquin Benoit.
Question, if you will, the decision to use Benoit in a second straight game and with a seven-run lead, but the fact of the matter is that the Tigers’ setup man lit the gas can in the eighth inning. Benoit turned a shaky situation, created by Villarreal, into a total mess and brought the White Sox back into the game as a result.
What’s Next: The Tigers go in search of their third straight victory over the Sox, a series win and, most importantly, a share of the AL Central lead on Thursday night. It will be a rematch of last week’s ace vs. ace pitching showdown as Justin Verlander faces lefty Chris Sale. The Tigers have had success against Sale this year, beating him all three times they’ve faced him and scoring 12 runs in 18 innings.