There's still 23 games left, but the Detroit Tigers are making a strong push toward their first division title in 24 years.
A demoralizing defeat may have left the Chicago White Sox looking forward to next year.Coming off a remarkable comeback, the Tigers go for the three-game sweep Sunday night when these AL Central rivals meet for the final time in Detroit this season.Trailing 8-1 in the fifth inning Saturday, the Tigers (77-62) rallied for a 9-8 victory -- their 12th in 16 games -- with Ryan Raburn hitting a game-tying two-run homer and Miguel Cabrera following with a walkoff shot against closer Sergio Santos to drop third-place Chicago (68-68) 7 1/2 games back."I think every loss hurts when you play this game or when you compete," White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said. "But this one is very painful."It marked the fifth time in 2011 that a team had come back to win after trailing by at least seven runs."That was an unbelievable inning," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said after his club won for the ninth time in 11 home games in this matchup. "I'm not sure I've ever been part of a game exactly like that one, with a two-run homer to tie it, and then boom, another one to win it."The Tigers, whose last division title came in 1987 in the AL East, lead second-place Cleveland by 6 1/2 games and will try to create even more separation between themselves and Chicago on Sunday with Max Scherzer (13-8, 4.52 ERA) on the hill.The right-hander's strikeouts per nine innings have fallen from 8.46 to 7.73 this season, and Scherzer has had a more difficult time getting hitters out with two strikes. Batters are hitting .233 off him with two strikes compared to .176 in those situations last year."I have an idea what I need to do, and I'm confident in my bullpen (session) I'll be able to fix it," Scherzer told the Tigers' official website after surrendering seven runs and a season-high 10 hits in three-plus innings of Monday's 9-5 loss to Kansas City.Scherzer is 1-2 with a 1.64 ERA in three starts against Chicago this season, receiving just four runs of support in these outings.He may be working with a cushion Sunday if Austin Jackson continues his surge at the plate. The center fielder went 4 for 5 with two triples Saturday and is batting .552 (16 for 29) in the last six games.Jackson, who is hitting .431 (22 for 51) off White Sox pitching in 2011, has seven hits in 16 at-bats off Sunday's scheduled starter Mark Buehrle (11-6, 3.05).The veteran left-hander is 7-1 with a 2.96 ERA in his last 11 starts in this matchup -- winning the last two -- but he was tagged for a season-high six runs and eight hits in his last start at Comerica Park, a 9-3 loss April 22.Buehrle, though, has given up more than three runs just once in his last 21 starts, and with five or six outings left, he's on pace to reach 210 innings for the fourth consecutive year."It's nice knowing you have such a consistent guy and workhorse," Santos told the team's official website after Buehrle threw 7 2/3 innings of four-hit ball in Monday's 3-0 victory over Minnesota. "He's one of the main reasons why we are still hanging around."The Tigers and White Sox conclude their season series with a three-game set at U.S. Cellular Field starting Sept. 12.