The Tigers missed a chance to claim first place after being swept in a doubleheader by Minnesota on Sunday, but they regrouped to beat Kansas City 6-2 in Monday's four-game series opener as Justin Verlander pitched eight solid innings.
The White Sox beat Cleveland 5-4 later Monday, though, keeping Detroit (81-72) one game back with nine remaining.
"It's not like every game's a must-win, but it's getting close to that point," Verlander told the team's official website. "It's a lot of pressure on us, but I think this team thrives under pressure. And if we start winning a few of these ballgames, that switches everything and puts the pressure on the White Sox."
After the completion of this series, the Tigers will travel to Minnesota for a three-game set before closing the regular season with three at Kansas City, which suffered its second straight defeat after being routed 15-4 by the Indians on Sunday to end its four-game winning streak.
"They're in a pennant chase and they're trying to make the playoffs. I'm sure there's a lot of energy over there," Gordon told the team's official website. "But there's energy here, too, so we're going to try to play them hard the next three games and make it a good series."
Sanchez and Chen will square off again Tuesday after both pitched well in Kansas City's 1-0 victory Aug. 29.
Chen (11-12, 5.22 ERA) allowed four hits in eight innings, while Sanchez (3-6, 4.55) gave up the lone run and seven hits over seven innings."Chen pitched a great game. A great matchup - Chen and Sanchez - and Chen was just a little better," manager Jim Leyland said after that contest. "Chen throws this when you're looking for that, and vice-versa. He knows what he's doing, obviously."
The left-hander was solid again in Wednesday's 3-0 win over Chicago, scattering five hits in 6 2-3 innings." Bruce Chen was right on top of his game," manager Ned Yost said. "I told him after he was done, `You did a great job of pitching yourself into trouble in the fourth inning and even a better job of pitching yourself out of it.' Bruce did a phenomenal job."
Sanchez didn't pitch as well his last time out Thursday when he gave up six runs in 5 2-3 innings of a 12-4 loss to Oakland. The right-hander, though, struck out eight - his most since being acquired from Miami prior to the non-waiver trade deadline.
Triple Crown contender Miguel Cabrera went 1 for 4 on Monday to give him a 14-game hitting streak, during which he's batting .368 with seven homers. He leads the AL in batting average (.331) and RBIs (133), but his 42 homers trail Texas slugger Josh Hamilton by one.
Cabrera is 11 for 26 (.423) with three homers and three doubles lifetime off Chen.
|Kansas City Royals|
|September 18, 2012||Luis Mendoza||Day-to-Day||Strep throat|
|September 14, 2012||Lorenzo Cain||Day-to-Day||Left game - Strained right hamstring|
|August 18, 2012||Chris Getz||15-Day DL||Broken left thumb|
|August 17, 2012||Chris Getz||Day-to-Day||Left game - fractured left thumb|
|July 28, 2012||Mike Moustakas||Day-to-Day||Left game - sprained right knee|
|July 05, 2012||Luke Hochevar||Day-to-Day||Sprained right ankle|
|September 18, 2012||Max Scherzer||Day-to-Day||Left game - right shoulder fatigue|
|September 16, 2012||Austin Jackson||Day-to-Day||Sore left ankle|
|September 11, 2012||Ryan Raburn||15-Day DL||Strained right quadriceps|
|August 23, 2012||Doug Fister||Day-to-Day||Tightness in right groin|
|August 23, 2012||Miguel Cabrera||Day-to-Day||Left game - Right ankle soreness|
|August 01, 2012||Ryan Raburn||15-Day DL||Sprained right thumb|
DETROIT (AP) -- Anibal Sanchez retired the final batter on a weak grounder, and Detroit players began celebrating around the mound.
Moments later, the home crowd roared a little louder when the AL Central standings were posted on the scoreboard in left field - with the Tigers back in a tie for first.
"We control our own destiny. We've just got to continue to play good baseball," catcher Gerald Laird said. "We don't have to rely on anybody to beat anybody now. It's all on our shoulders."
Sanchez threw his first shutout in over a year, and the Tigers caught the Chicago White Sox atop the division with a 2-0 victory over the Kansas City Royals on Tuesday night. Detroit had spent only one day in first since the start of August. The Tigers were tied with the White Sox after beating them Sept. 2 - but quickly fell back.
Now it's even again with eight games to play. Even in this season of expanded playoffs, Detroit and Chicago are in an old-fashioned division race with seemingly everything at stake - because a wild card isn't a likely option.
The White Sox lost 4-3 to Cleveland earlier in the day, then Sanchez (4-6) took the mound and retired the first 11 hitters he faced.
The Tigers trailed the White Sox by three games on the morning of Sept. 19, but they've made up the ground and will have a chance to win a second straight division title if they can finish strongly enough.
"Nothing is over, nothing is in," Sanchez said. "We're right there."
Sanchez allowed only three hits. He struck out 10 and walked one. Sanchez threw 105 pitches in his first shutout since Sept. 10, 2011, when he tossed a one-hitter for Florida at Pittsburgh.
Bruce Chen (11-13) gave up RBI singles by Prince Fielder and Delmon Young in the first inning.
Sanchez pounded the strike zone early in his best start since coming over to Detroit from Miami in a July trade. Only one Royals player hit the ball out of the infield until Alex Gordon and Billy Butler broke up the perfect game bid with consecutive singles in the fourth for Kansas City.
Sanchez got out of that jam when Salvador Perez 's line drive was snagged by third baseman Miguel Cabrera .
"Sanchez did a real good job," Chen said. "One of those games where you just have to tip your hat."
The Tigers hit six singles in the first two innings, but Chen was able to limit the damage by getting out of a bases-loaded, nobody-out situation in the second. Omar Infante hit a shallow fly, and Cabrera and Fielder both struck out.
Detroit didn't really threaten again until the seventh, when reliever Louis Coleman struck out Young with the bases loaded for the third out.
Chen allowed two runs and 10 hits in 6 2-3 innings.
Sanchez now has six quality starts in his last seven outings. In the third, he stopped Eric Hosmer 's comebacker with his bare hand, picked up the ball and threw it hard over to Fielder at first for the out. He made another hard throw to first on Jarrod Dyson 's 1-3 groundout in the eighth.
Sanchez said he tries to throw to first like he throws home, since he can be wild when trying to ease up.
"He threw it good. It had a little movement on it, too," Fielder said. "Perfect throw. I just wasn't ready for it."
There was activity in the Detroit bullpen to start the ninth, but Sanchez returned to the mound to a warm ovation from the crowd and retired the side in order.
Cabrera went hitless, ending his 14-game hitting streak.
NOTES: The time of game was 2 hours, 13 minutes. ... The Tigers acquired RHP Greg Ross from Atlanta as the player to be named in an Aug. 31 deal that sent Jeff Baker to the Braves. Ross will be assigned to Class A Lakeland. ... Detroit RHP Rick Porcello (9-12) faces Kansas City RHP Jeremy Guthrie (4-3) on Wednesday night.