DETROIT -- Following a home loss to Cleveland almost two weeks ago, Detroit first baseman Dmitri Young issued a quick assessment of the American League Central race for the title in 2005. "This is our rival right here," said Young of the Indians. "Forget the other teams. I think it's going to come down to us and them." With 16 games now over and done, Young might want to amend his prognostications to include the White Sox and Twins. For the second straight day, the South Siders rode solid pitching to victory, edging past the Tigers by a 4-3 margin before 19,334 at Comerica Park on Thursday afternoon.
It was the 12th time this season the White Sox used strong pitching to end up on the right side of the score. But unlike Wednesday's offensive explosion for the White Sox, they found just enough timely hitting against Jeremy Bonderman (2-2) and the Tigers' bullpen to improve to 7-1 in one-run games. The White Sox raised their overall record to 12-4, matching the best 16-game start in club history from 1935, after winning their fourth straight. Through six series in 2005, Ozzie Guillen's crew has won four and swept two. "Last year, we won a lot of games with the home run, but you won't outslug opposing teams all the time," said White Sox starter Mark Buehrle, who improved to 3-1 Thursday with his 32nd straight effort of at least six innings worked. "We are playing baseball the way baseball should be played." "They are playing good baseball," Guillen added. "Obviously, you won't win without scoring some runs. But pitching and defense is why we are (at 12-4)." Buehrle struck out a career-high 12 last Saturday at home against the Mariners, and defeated Seattle in one hour and 39 minutes. The left-hander basically had nowhere to go but down in this next trip to the mound, but he didn't fall too far. Detroit scored single runs in each of the second, third and fifth innings, but Buehrle minimized the damage even without being able to spot his fastball. Using his other three pitches, with a focus on the changeup, Buehrle gave up just six hits over seven innings and struck out four. But it took a seventh-inning rally for the White Sox to make Buehrle a winner. A.J. Pierzynski led off against Bonderman with a single to left, followed by Joe Crede's single up the middle. Crede extended his hitting streak to a career-high 12 games with a double in the second. Juan Uribe sacrificed both runners up a base, bringing in Detroit's left-handed reliever Jamie Walker to face the left-handed hitting Scott Podsednik. The White Sox leadoff man singled to right, winning the battle and scoring both runners. "I was trying to get a pitch out over the plate," Podsednik said. "With the infield in a little bit, I just wanted to hit something on the ground hard and get the tying run in. Something going through would have been a bonus." "Everyone is doing their job and we aren't the type of team that if one player doesn't hit, we are done," Guillen added. "Every day it's somebody different, every game someone different is a hero." Shingo Takatsu, the White Sox's previously embattled closer, also returned to semi-hero status Thursday after working a perfect ninth for his fifth save. Guillen planned to use Takatsu based on matchups, meaning primarily against right-handed hitters, and the Tigers had four right-handers scheduled to start their final at-bats. As a reliever, Takatsu knew he would have a chance to get back on the mound quickly, after Guillen pulled him in the ninth inning of Wednesday's victory over Minnesota in favor of Damaso Marte. But he still appreciated Guillen's support. "I could tell how Ozzie feels about me," Takatsu said through his translator. "It makes me feel that much more satisfied when I do go out there and finish the game and see his face. I can tell how happy he is for me, and I'm glad to make him happy." "With the wind blowing in, it was good to get him back to his job and get him some confidence," Guillen added. "I really believe in him." Takatsu's closing performance would not have been possible if Dustin Hermanson didn't pitch out of a two-on, nobody out jam in the eighth. The inning ended with Young grounding into a double play, from Willie Harris to Juan Uribe to Paul Konerko. Which brings the White Sox-Tigers' rivalry back to Young again. The White Sox knew of his early comments, and took no umbrage over the strong support of his team. All the same, they like their chances to bring home the title as much as Young likes the Tigers. And they can't forget the Twins, who sit two behind the White Sox. Two games is the biggest first-place lead the White Sox have held over the past two seasons. "The way I see it is if Maggs isn't in the lineup that much this year, [the Tigers] are going to have problems," Buehrle said. "He's a big part of that team. If he's in there, they are going to compete. I think there are four teams in this. It's a tougher division than people think it is." "He's entitled to think whatever he wants to think," added Podsednik of Young. "But this (White Sox) team doesn't need added motivation. We don't need bulletin board material to get up to play. We are focused, and we know what we have to do."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.