Max Scherzer went right back to winning. Miguel Cabrera walked off the field.
Scherzer outpitched Chris Sale in a marquee matchup of All-Star starters to earn his 14th victory, and the Tigers overcame Cabrera’s injury to beat the Chicago White Sox 7-3 on Monday night.
With one out in the bottom of the fifth inning, Cabrera was replaced at third base by Don Kelly. The 2012 AL MVP, who appeared to be holding his left side as he headed to the dugout, was removed with a sore hip flexor muscle and will be evaluated Tuesday.
Detroit manager Jim Leyland said the Tigers are going to "wait and see" on Cabrera’s condition.
"You know what? If he’s got to miss a few games, he’s got to miss a few games, and we find out how tough we are," Leyland said.
Cabrera, who became baseball’s first Triple Crown winner in 45 years last season, has played in 97 of Detroit’s 98 games this year. He began the day leading the AL with a .359 batting average and 96 RBIs.
After scoring from second in the top of the fifth on Victor Martinez’s single, Cabrera tried to loosen up his side. He wasn’t able to do it, so he left the game.
"It (felt) weird," Cabrera said.
Without Cabrera, the Tigers still had more than enough to beat Chicago, which gave up five unearned runs.
Scherzer (14-1) won his first 13 decisions before losing his last outing before he started the All-Star game for the American League last Tuesday night at Citi Field. He went eight innings Monday and allowed four hits while striking out five.
The right-hander, who didn’t allow a baserunner until Adam Dunn’s single with one out in the fifth, increased his strikeout total to 157. The only two runs Scherzer gave up came on solo homers by Dayan Viciedo and Conor Gillaspie.
Scherzer also knew what kind of challenge he faced in Sale.
"You know every time when Sale’s on the mound, he’s one of the best. You’ve got to bring your A game if you’re going to have a chance," Scherzer said. "Tonight I thought I pitched the ball very well, but I also could have lost. At the same time, my teammates had a good idea of what they wanted to do."
Martinez had four hits to raise his July average to .425 and Torii Hunter homered in the seventh for Detroit, which improved to 43-9 when scoring five or more runs.
That offense, though, might not be the same if Cabrera is out for a little while.
"If Miggy comes out of a game he’s definitely in pain, but Miggy’s one of those guys, he’s tough. He won’t be out long," Hunter said. "I definitely think if you need to rest him a little bit, a couple days, I guess we have to do that. We need him for the long run. If it takes a couple days for him to get where he needs to be, I think we should do it."
Even with Sale pitching, the White Sox were far from where they needed to be Monday.
Sale followed Scherzer to the mound in the All-Star game and worked two scoreless innings. This time, the left-hander pitched eight innings and gave up four runs — two earned. He yielded seven hits while striking out 11.
Sale (6-9) has struck out at least 10 five times this season.
The Tigers scored two unearned runs in the fifth to make it 3-0 when Martinez singled with two outs, bringing in Hernan Perez and Cabrera. Perez led off the inning with a routine grounder to shortstop, but Alexei Ramirez misplayed it for the first of his two errors.
After retiring Austin Jackson and Hunter, Sale walked Cabrera intentionally and then Fielder to load the bases for Martinez. Sale was visibly upset with the decision to walk Cabrera.
"I like people to earn their way on base," Sale said. "That’s about it."
Chicago, which was trying to win three straight games for the first time since June 8-10, fell to 11-20 against AL Central teams. The White Sox allowed five unearned runs and made three more errors to reach 64 after committing 70 last year.
"It’s going to happen every once in a while," White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. "You hope this one, even in the second half, is one of those every-once-in-a-whiles."
NOTES: Leyland said it "might be wishful thinking" that Detroit 2B Omar Infante (left ankle) could be back by the weekend. Infante has been on the disabled list since July 4. … Paul Konerko, activated from the 15-day DL following a lower back strain, was the White Sox designated hitter and went 0 for 3 in his first game since July 2. … White Sox RHP Jake Peavy said the trade speculation surrounding him "is not something that consumes any bit of my thought process." Peavy does not have trade protection in the two-year contract he signed this offseason. … Tuesday’s pitching matchup is Detroit’s Rick Porcello (6-6, 4.80 ERA) against Chicago’s Hector Santiago (3-5, 3.30).