It was just one pitch, but Justin Verlander and the Detroit Tigers can only hope it turns out to be a turning point in their season.
Verlander turned in one of his most effective outings this year and once again beat the White Sox, leading the Detroit Tigers past Chicago 7-1 Friday night.
The right-hander showed some of his former Cy Young form, particularly to wiggle out of a jam in the first inning. After Verlander's wild pickoff throw set up a sacrifice fly by Adam Dunn, Verlander reached back to strike out Tyler Flowers on a 95 mph fastball and leave the bases loaded.
''Yeah, you can't put your team in a 3-0 deficit right away,'' Verlander said. ''I made a bad throw to allow those guys to score an easy run. Once the bases are loaded, you're thinking, `All right, just leave the damage where it's at and make a pitch here.'''
Tigers manager Brad Ausmus was also glad to see Verlander get out of the tough spot.
''I've always said the first inning is the toughest inning for a starter,'' Ausmus said. ''To get out of the inning was very important.''
The contending Tigers won for the fifth time in six games. Chicago has lost nine of 10.
Verlander (12-11) beat the White Sox for the 14th time in 18 decisions since June 10, 2009 - the most wins by any pitcher against a single team in that span.
The former AL MVP allowed one run and nine hits in seven innings. It was the first time this year that he allowed fewer than two runs in a game.
''I'm just trying to execute better pitches, not walk so many guys and get ahead in the count,'' said Verlander, whose numbers began to trend upward since the All-Star break. ''I know (the talent) is still there to be the guy I want to be. I just got to find it.''
Verlander matched his season high with eight strikeouts and walked two. Seven of the strikeouts came in his last three innings.
''The first half of his game was good,'' Ausmus said. ''The second half was very good.''
J.D. Martinez had a double and two singles for Detroit. The Tigers got 13 hits, including five doubles.
Scott Carroll (5-9) took the loss but didn't get much support in the field. He allowed seven runs, only three of which were earned.
First baseman Jose Abreu had three hits for Chicago, but his two errors helped the Tigers score five times in the fourth for a 7-1 lead.
After Victor Martinez hit a grounder that handcuffed Abreu for an error, Nick Castellanos' groundout and Alex Avila's double drove in two runs. Eugenio Suarez followed with a single before Ezequiel Carrera's high bouncer glanced off the tip of Abreu's glove for a run-scoring miscue. Ian Kinsler's fielder's choice groundout and Torii Hunter's double capped the rally.
Abreu left the game after the seventh because of what appeared to be a minor hamstring injury.
''He's fine,'' manager Robin Ventura said. ''I think he's just tired.''
Tigers: RHP Joakim Soria resumed his throwing program before the game, when he threw off flat ground for the third time this week. The hope is that his strained left oblique will not require a second stint on the disabled list, but there is no timetable for the reliever's return.
White Sox: OF Moises Sierra went hitless in four at-bats on his rehab assignment with Triple-A Charlotte. He is on the 15-day disabled list because of a strained left oblique.
The Tigers will send RHP Max Scherzer (15-4, 3.13) to the mound against LHP Chris Sale (10-3, 2.03) in the opener of a split doubleheader on Saturday. Tigers LHP Kyle Ryan and White Sox RHP Chris Bassitt are scheduled to make their major league debuts in the nightcap.
REED GETS CALL
Prior to the game, the Tigers purchased the contract of RHP Evan Reed from Triple-A Toledo and designated RHP Jose Ortego for assignment. Reed had a 0-1 record and 4.88 earned run average in 27 games for the Tigers this season. He replaced LHP Kyle Lobstein, who was sent to the Triple-A affiliate the previous night.
LITTLE BIG MEN
The White Sox plan to honor the Jackie Robinson West Little League team on Chicago's South Side before the second game of the doubleheader. The team became the first all-black squad to win the United States championship before losing to South Korea in the Little League title game.