Will Tigers turn sweep into momentum?

DETROIT — Justin Verlander and the Tigers swept the Chicago
White Sox out of Comerica Park with an emphatic 4-2 victory Sunday night
on national TV, giving them a tie for the Central Division lead.

But how much does it really mean at this point?

“We feel like we made this statement last time, and obviously we didn’t
continue to play great,” Verlander said. “I think we just need to
maintain the intensity we had this series. I think guys showed that our
ability to play clutch is really good.

“We had guys that put up great at-bats, guys that pitched extremely
well. I think we just need to realize we need to take that intensity
into every game.”

Verlander is referring to the last time the White Sox came to town. The
Tigers swept them in a three-game home series July 20-22 to take a
one-game lead in the Central Division. They then promptly went out and
dropped six of their next eight games to fall back into second place,
where they have been stuck until this weekend.

Since then, it’s been two steps forward, one step back as it seemed that
every time the White Sox lost, the Tigers did not take advantage. Then
when the Tigers lost, the White Sox were able to pick up a game here and
there.

However, it’s always a good thing to beat the team you’re chasing in
head-to-head games. After the weekend sweep, the Tigers improved to 10-4
against the White Sox with four games left to play against them. Those
four games are in Chicago starting a week from Monday.

“We’re tied right now,” said Delmon Young, who had the tie-breaking
three-run home run off Chris Sale in the sixth inning. “We’ve got a
four-game set with them, but we’ve got a series with Cleveland and
Anaheim before we get there, so we’ve got to play good baseball before
we show up to Chicago.”

The Tigers and White Sox are both 72-61 with 29 games to play. Of those
29, the Tigers have 23 left in the Central Division. Seven of those are
against the Kansas City Royals, the team that swept the Tigers before
they returned home to sweep the White Sox. Overall, the Tigers are 29-20
within the division.

Before the series with the White Sox started when they were three games
back, manager Jim Leyland stressed that it would not be “the end of the
world” if they didn’t win the series.

But he’ll definitely take the sweep.

“I don’t think it was the most important thing to get three. It would
not have been good to lose three,” Leyland said. “This wasn’t the Super
Bowl today, this was a game. We had a good weekend, you’ve got to enjoy
it but in about 12 hours we’ve got the Cleveland Indians coming in
here.”

While other people expected the White Sox to falter at some point during
the season, Leyland made sure his team wasn’t adopting that attitude
and even a sweep wasn’t going to change his mind.

“We just beat a very good team, a team that’s been in first place for
most of the year,” Leyland said. “It’s gonna be hard to take that away
from them. They’re good and they’ve answered every bell so far. We just
gotta play baseball and continue to enjoy it and have fun playing the
game and be ready to play every day. If we do that, however it plays
out, it plays out.”

If the Tigers get the kind of starting pitching they got against the
White Sox, it should play out in their favor. Combined, Doug Fister, Max
Scherzer and Verlander allowed a total of three earned runs in the
three-game series.

A.J. Pierzynski, who exchanged words with Verlander during Sunday
night’s game, was 0-for-3 against Verlander with two strikeouts and
0-for-3 against Scherzer.

“The way Scherzer and Verlander pitched the last couple nights makes it
tough on anybody,” Pierzynski said. “You could throw the ’27 Yankees out
there and they’re going to get them out.”

Scherzer and Verlander might not be able to pitch that way every time
out, but now that it’s September, they’re definitely going to try.

“You can’t say you’re going to take a playoff-type intensity into every
game of the season,” Verlander said. “That’s not possible. But coming
down to this time of year, there’s no reason to leave anything out
there. We’ve got to find a way.”