CHICAGO (AP)—The Detroit Tigers have been atop the AL Central since May 16. They’re refusing to budge now.
Their 10-game lead from early August has nearly evaporated, but their playoff hopes are as strong as ever after they beat the Chicago White Sox 6-2 on Wednesday night.
“We feel comfortable, but at the same time we can’t feel too comfortable. We have another team behind us that’s playing really well,” Curtis Granderson said after getting three of the Tigers’ 14 hits.
Detroit still leads Minnesota by one-half game in the division after the Twins beat Boston 8-2 on Wednesday night.
“Any way to go in. If it happens to be on top, that’s a plus,” Granderson said, referring to the possibility of winning the wild card. “But any way it happens is OK with us.”
The Tigers won two of three in Chicago and all but ended the defending World Series champions’ chances of returning to the postseason.
The White Sox lost for the fifth time in six games. With 10 games left, they trail the Tigers by six games in the division and Minnesota by 5 1/2 for the wild card.
“It’s not impossible, but it’s hard. It’s not over yet, but obviously we’re climbing a real tough wall,” White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said.
Jeremy Bonderman (13-8), just 1-4 in his 10 previous starts, allowed five hits in six innings with a walk and two strikeouts. He took a 4-0 lead into the sixth before surrendering solo homers to Juan Uribe and Tadahito Iguchi.
“We haven’t done anything yet but put ourselves in a decent position. That’s all we’ve done,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. “We have 10 left. We have to win enough to get in.”
The Tigers had three straight hits to open both the third and fifth innings and built a four-run lead against Jon Garland (17-6), who failed for a second straight start to get his 18th win and match his total of last season.
Garland gave up 12 hits and five runs in seven-plus innings and left after giving up Ordonez’s 23rd homer in the eighth.
“Terrible,” he said, describing his outing.
Garland was just as blunt assessing the White Sox’s slim chance of making it to the postseason.
“We have to win out and hopefully they lose some games,” Garland said. “With the way Minnesota has played, it’s highly unlikely, but you never know.”
Marcus Thames reached on an infield single to shortstop leading off the third and scored on Brandon Inge’s RBI double to right-center, which was followed by another run-scoring double from Granderson.
Inge and Granderson singled in the fifth, Rodriguez hit an RBI-double and Sean Casey delivered a sacrifice fly to make it 4-0.
Uribe led off the bottom of the sixth with his 19th homer, trimming the lead to 4-1. One out later, Iguchi hit his 17th, a drive to right-center that was just out of the reach of a leaping Granderson.
But Bonderman, as he did most of the night, was able to regroup after giving up a single to Jermaine Dye following Iguchi’s homer. He struck out Jim Thome and got Paul Konerko on a fielder’s choice grounder.
“Any time you get to September, you have something to play for and you’re leading your division, it doesn’t get much better than this,” Bonderman said.
Ordonez, who homered twice in Detroit’s 8-2 series-opening victory Monday, drove a pitch from Garland over the center field fence to make it a three-run game. Rodriguez added his 12th homer in the ninth off Neal Cotts.
Chicago’s Joe Crede hit into three double plays, including the one that ended the game. … Detroit headed to Baltimore for a makeup game Thursday before going to Kansas City for three games. The Tigers then finish the season at home against Toronto and Kansas City. … Chicago plays four games against Seattle at home before closing the season on the road at Cleveland and Minnesota. … Garland dropped to 12-6 lifetime against the Tigers. … The White Sox won the season series 12-7. … The two homers gave the Tigers 115 on the road this season—a club record. The previous mark was 114 set two years ago.