Homers, Garland lead Sox over Tigers

Homers, Garland lead Sox vs. Tigers

DETROIT -- One game does not a statement make. Not even one extremely impressive, thoroughly dominant victory.

Just ask the White Sox, who opened a crucial three-game series at Comerica Park on Tuesday night with a 7-1 shellacking of the first-place Tigers to move within 3 1/2 games of the division leaders.

Instead, call the South Siders' victory something along the lines of a loud and brash comment to get the other team's attention. How about a challenge presented by the conquering heroes to the young upstarts and top story to date of the 2006 season? Better yet, it allowed the White Sox to quiet the 39,153 making up Detroit's sellout crowd.

Tuesday's complete White Sox performance also reinforced one point that has been abundantly clear for most of the past two seasons. The American League Central title still goes through Chicago, although neither team appears ready to yield the division crown after one lopsided victory.

Neither side will admit that the White Sox (58-34) have moved inside the heads of the Tigers (62-31), despite a 6-1 record against Detroit in 2006, a 4-0 ledger at Comerica Park and a 12-2 mark over the last 14 played in Detroit.

"I don't think it's a psychological edge," Detroit manager Jim Leyland said. "I think they've pitched better than we have and hit better than we have. Six times."

"At this level, I don't know if I believe in getting inside another team's head," added White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko, who led the White Sox 10-hit attack with two home runs and four RBIs. "We used to play Minnesota, and they were not in our head but there was a feeling that they had our number that year. We are not at that point yet [with Detroit]."

Both the White Sox and Tigers downplayed the significance of the second series of the second half. But after being swept by the Yankees over the weekend, including one of the worst efforts from the team this season on Saturday, the White Sox acknowledged the importance of getting off to a good start in the opening game with Detroit.

Joe Crede, whose two hits moved his average to .301, doubled home a run in the first inning, and Juan Uribe gave his team a 2-0 lead against Nate Robertson (8-6) with a run-scoring single in the fourth. Sixth-inning solo home runs from Konerko, his 22nd, and Crede, his 18th, increased the lead to 4-1, which was more than enough support for Jon Garland.

Garland (9-3) won his fifth straight decision. He has not lost since June 8 at home against the Tigers. With 12 earned runs allowed in his last 38 1/3 innings -- a 2.82 earned run average over his last six starts -- Garland currently stands as the most consistent starter on the White Sox staff. The right-hander did nothing to hurt that status Tuesday, allowing one earned run on six hits over seven innings, striking out five and walking one.

Despite pitching for the first time since working one-third of an inning during a rare relief appearance on July 8 against Boston, Garland was able to throw strikes and relied on his sinker to take control. He hadn't started since July 5 against Baltimore.

"I've been there before," said Garland of pitching on extended rest. "I'll probably have it again in my career before it's over. I can't think about it too much, don't let it bother you. I'm just trying to keep the same form from the last outing and throw strikes."

"We gained energy from him, I thought," said Konerko of Garland. "Starting pitching is so huge. You can say it a million times, and it's still an understatement as to how big it is."

Holding the three-run lead in the seventh, the White Sox received an extra out when shortstop Carlos Guillen failed to turn what could have been an inning-ending double play on Tadahito Iguchi's ground ball to second baseman Placido Polanco. Jim Thome followed with a single to left off of Robertson, bringing in right-handed reliever Jason Grilli, a former White Sox starter, to face Konerko.

Konerko worked the count full before launching a three-run blast to right, helping provide an end to a three-game losing streak. It was the first White Sox win since the 19-inning marathon on July 9 with Boston.

"We beat Boston that long ago?" Guillen said with a laugh. "Wow. Oh, my God. It seemed like it was yesterday. Hopefully, we recharged our batteries, start believing in ourselves and playing better. If this team pitches good, we will be there."

The White Sox improved to 22-13 against the American League Central. They hold an edge against every team but the Indians, against whom they are 5-7. Of course, no White Sox edge is greater than the one they extended over the Tigers through Tuesday's win.

According to Guillen and his main contributors Tuesday, don't read too much into one victory. There still are two more games to play in this series and 10 more head-to-head matchups with Detroit the rest of the way.

Then again, those head-to-head matchups ultimately could decide a Central race that could be headed right down to the season's final days.

"If we win in our division, we should be fine," White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski said. "But we still have a long way to go."

"This division will be won by head-to-head games, I believe that," Konerko added. "It's seven games in now, so that leaves 12 against them and you want to wrap up as many as you can."

Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.