White Sox close in on Tigers in battle for bottom (Sep 16, 2017)

DETROIT — It was unthinkable in Detroit two months ago — that the Chicago White Sox could vacate last place in the American League Central in favor of the Tigers — but it could become a reality in a few days.

Detroit, 3-12 in September, pushed that milepost back to at least Sunday by getting a 3-2 walk-off win over Chicago on Friday night that shoved the White Sox two games behind the Tigers in the standings.

“I don’t know if they’re thinking about that,” Chicago manager Rick Renteria said of possibly vacating last place. “I know I’m not thinking about that.

“I’m more thinking about how well we’re going to continue to play if we can. As you know, I always talk about numbers take care of themselves.

“In and of themselves, we’ve got to focus on things we can control. And I want them to continue to control what they can, which is putting together good games, good at-bats, play the game fundamentally soundly.

“If that (passing Detroit) were to happen, that’s just a part of the consequence of those actions. There’s no major league clubs, no players that want to do poorly. So everybody’s playing to be the best that they can possibly in the moment in which they’re existing.

“And right now we’re just trying to continue to play as good of baseball as we possibly can.”

Like Detroit, Chicago is looking at fresh faces on the mound as the season winds down.

The White Sox will start right-hander Reynaldo Lopez (1-3, 4.76 ERA) for the sixth time this season in Saturday evening’s game.

Lopez has split his starts between Chicago and the road and faces Detroit for the first time in his fledgling career. He won his last outing, against Kansas City, allowing three runs and eight hits in six innings.

The Tigers will have rookie right-hander Myles Jaye (1-1, 6.75 ERA) making his second start of the season. He has never faced the White Sox.

Jaye is a September callup who was originally brought up to flesh out a bullpen that was under stress because the Tigers’ starters were getting pounded early and often. Now he is one of those starters.

Jaye picked up a win in relief on Sept. 5 against Kansas City but was the losing pitching in his last outing, his first start, allowing seven runs and seven hits at Cleveland.

The Tigers now have few stars remaining after trading off Justin Verlander and Justin Upton on Aug. 31 plus J.D. Martinez in mid-July and Justin Wilson and Alex Avila at the end of July.

Toss in the loss of 2016 Rookie of the Year Michael Fulmer to ulnar ligament relocation surgery and the loss of Jordan Zimmermann to neck problems, and Detroit’s rotation has been stripped of solid veteran pitchers.

“It’s probably just about what I anticipated,” Detroit manager Brad Ausmus said of how September has gone. “I knew there would be some struggles. Some young guys who are here probably ahead of schedule. And as a result, there’s going to be some rough days.”

Anibal Sanchez went six innings Friday night, just the second time a starter has gone that long since the strip-down at the end of August.