Justin Verlander wins 21st as Tigers cool off White Sox

DETROIT -- Jim Leyland reached a milestone Friday night, and he knew just who deserves the credit.

Justin Verlander took a shutout into the eighth inning and the Tigers expanded their AL Central lead over Chicago with an 8-1 victory over the White Sox. The win was Leyland's 500th with Detroit, making him the fifth Tigers manager to reach that level.

"Give credit where it is due: Justin Verlander has 104 of those wins, and he gave us another great performance tonight," Leyland said. "So let's forget about Jim Leyland and talk about Justin Verlander."

Verlander (21-5) improved to 19-2 since May 1, allowing one run on seven hits in 7 1/3 innings. He walked one and struck out six.

"It was a hot, humid night and both pitchers were laboring, which makes it more impressive what he did tonight," Leyland said. "It was nice to see, because he picked the offense up, and then they picked him up. That's how you have to win games in September."

Verlander was pitching a two-hitter when the Tigers scored five runs in the fifth to take an 8-0 lead.

"I didn't change my game plan when we were leading 3-0 early, but once it got to be 8-0, I started throwing first-pitch fastballs," he said. "I figured if they were hacking, I could get some quick outs. It hurt me a little in the eighth, but you certainly can't complain about a game like this."

Detroit isn't known for defense, but Verlander got several exceptional plays, including a diving catch by second baseman Ramon Santiago and a long running grab by gimpy right fielder Magglio Ordonez.

"That looked like Magglio from at least 10 years ago, the way he ran that down," Verlander said. "As for Santi, I don't know what you can say about that play, other than it probably saved me at least a run."

On a 95-degree day, John Danks (6-10) struggled badly for Chicago, allowing eight runs on nine hits and two walks in 4 2/3 innings. The White Sox had won five of six, but fell 6 1/2 games behind the first-place Tigers with two games left in the series.

"Danks wasn't around the plate, and he was facing a pretty good hitting club that is swinging the bats well," White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said.

The White Sox also trail second-place Cleveland by a game.

"We're running out of games," Danks said. "We have to at least win out against the Tigers and we're still going to need some help."

After Verlander needed just six pitches in the top of the first, Detroit staked him to a 3-0 lead in the bottom of the inning.

Austin Jackson led off with a single, took second on Ordonez's groundout and scored on Delmon Young's triple. Young came home on Cabrera's RBI single, and Cabrera then stunned the sold-out crowd of 42,352 by stealing second base.

That put him in position to score on Alex Avila's single.

"That was all Miggy's doing -- don't give me any credit for that one," Leyland said. "He saw that Danks wasn't paying attention and he got the base. That's a huge play, because it gets us a run."

Against the overwhelming favorite to win the American League Cy Young award, Guillen knew the game was almost over after one inning.

"When it is 3-0 in the first inning against that guy, you've got a pretty rough slope to climb," he said.

Guillen was right, as the score remained 3-0 until the bottom of the fifth, with the White Sox only putting one runner in scoring position.

Brandon Inge led off Detroit's fifth with a single, and scored on Jackson's ninth homer of the season.

A single and two walks loaded the bases with two outs, and Guillen pulled Danks in favor of Josh Kinney. The move didn't pay off, as Jhonny Peralta lined a bases-clearing double to give the Tigers their eight-run lead.

Tyler Flowers broke up Verlander's shutout with a 425-foot homer on the first pitch of the eighth, and Chicago loaded the bases with one out before Joaquin Benoit came out of the bullpen. Paul Konerko flew out to left, and A.J. Pierzynski lined out to Cabrera at first.

Game notes
Leyland joined Sparky Anderson (1,331), Hughie Jennings (1,131), Bucky Harris (516) and Steve O'Neill (509) as 500-game winners with Detroit. "That's something you focus on more with your family, but it is something I'm proud of -- being only the fifth person to do that in over 100 years of baseball in Detroit," Leyland said. ... Tigers reliever Al Alburquerque is expected to throw an inning for Triple-A Toledo on Saturday before rejoining Detroit. Alburquerque has been sidelined with a concussion since being hit with a liner in batting practice on Aug. 12. ... Chicago's Eduardo Escobar made his major league debut, replacing Alexei Ramirez at shortstop in the seventh inning. Shane Lindsay, the first Australian to play for the White Sox, started his career by pitching the eighth. ... Verlander has thrown at least six innings and 100 pitches in all 30 starts this season. ... The teams play again Saturday afternoon, with Detroit's Brad Penny (9-10) against Chicago's Gavin Floyd (12-10).