Sox creep closer to Tigers with win

SportsChicago White SoxBobby JenksBasketballMike MacDougalBrian AndersonJuan Uribe

This one came as a bonus, like finding a nice big bone during baseball's dog days of August.

Beating the Tigers is really nothing new to the White Sox this season, considering their 8-3 head-to-head mismatch. Beating the Tigers with four unearned runs, now that's something to drool over and sink your canines into.

Suddenly, the Tigers have become mutt-like mortals after a season of superiority, and the Sox have quit chasing their own tails, gaining 3½ games in the standings in the last five days after Saturday's 4-3 win.

If the White Sox win the series finale Sunday, they will be only 5½ games behind the American League Central Division leaders. More important, it would have the Tigers looking over their shoulders, like the White Sox did when Cleveland played the part of the fast-closing posse last year.

"We're just trying to win series," Sox captain Paul Konerko said.

The Sox have done that. Now comes the next challenge.

"To sweep a team, now we know we have that in line," he said. "We're playing the game well, we're not fighting ourselves. … That's the way we played early on and we haven't really had that for a long time."

"Early on" is the first and last time the Tigers were swept this season. The dates were April 10-13. The team that swept them was the White Sox.

No one from the White Sox would dare say so, but the Tigers' troubles have become very noticeable.

They have lost four straight games for the first time since the end of May and a fifth on Sunday would make it a season-high losing streak.

Eighteen of their next 21 games are against contenders, including Sunday at U.S. Cellular Field and then the next three in Boston. Remember, the Tigers have yet to experience a losing road trip, which they are now in danger of doing.

Their two best pitchers, Justin Verlander and Kenny Rogers, have lost back-to-back games after coming into Chicago a combined 25-9. Verlander had skipped a start for tired-arm syndrome and Rogers has lost three of his last four starts.

That includes Saturday, when he lost because of three errors, giving the Tigers five in the first two games of the series. That's hardly the stuff that has made them the team with baseball's best record.

"Kenny is the type of pitcher who puts the ball in play," Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said. "That makes more chances for people to make mistakes. Pitching and defense win a lot of games."

Pitching and defense have helped the Sox to four victories in their last five games against division leaders New York and Detroit. Saturday it was Mark Buerhle's turn to handle the pitching part.

While he still hasn't won in his last eight starts, Buehrle allowed fewer runs than he had in six of those starts. He also had a season-high seven strikeouts, although all came in the first three innings.

"Buehrle threw the ball great," Guillen said. "His last three outings have been better and better."

Buehrle left tied 3-3 after six innings, but was saved a loss when the Sox tied the game during a three-run fifth that featured two Tigers errors, Juan Uribe's RBI double and Brian Anderson's two-RBI single. They won it in the seventh, which featured another Detroit error, a Jermaine Dye single and a Sandy Alomar Jr. sacrifice fly.

Mike MacDougal earned his first White Sox victory with 11/3 perfect innings and Bobby Jenks closed for his major-league-best 32nd save.

Now comes the chance for the sweep, which could perhaps save the season.

"[A sweep] would be real nice; 5½ games [back]," Jenks said. "That would be good for us."

dvandyck@tribune.com

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