CHICAGO -- They didn't have their injured star third baseman again, but the Detroit Tigers churned out another impressive win against the Chicago White Sox on Wednesday night without Miguel Cabrera.
Powered by a three-run homer by first baseman Prince Fielder and six shutout innings from starter Anibal Sanchez (8-7), the Tigers beat the White Sox 6-2 for their fourth win in as many games and third straight against Chicago at U.S. Cellular Field.
"I (felt) better once I got the lead," Sanchez said. "I just tried to keep (Sox hitters) down. If I tried to be perfect or tried to do something hard, that's a team that can change the score. I just tried to work it pitch by pitch, hitter by hitter. That's what helped me (tonight)."
Detroit (56-44), which stayed 3 1/2 games ahead of the second-place Cleveland Indians in the American League Central, will try for the series sweep on Thursday afternoon with ace Justin Verlander pitching against Jake Peavy -- a potential trade target the Sox are rumored to be shopping around.
They might have to play again without Cabrera, who missed his second straight game after leaving on Monday with a hip flexor strain that flared up as he scored from second base. Thanks to Sanchez and a balanced offensive performance, his absence was barely noticed for the second straight game -- especially after Fielder launched his long three-run shot in the top of the first off White Sox starter John Danks (2-8).
"We have to give it (our) all, because with Miggy out ... he's a big piece of the lineup," Sanchez said. "This gives him more of a chance to recover from the (injury) he's got. He's not going to feel like he has to rush back too quickly and make it worse. Right now, we're playing good and that's how (this) team does it, even without him."
The Tigers rolled after the good start.
Fielder went 2-for-4 and nearly clubbed a second homer in the fifth, two hitters after Torii Hunter took Danks deep for his second solo homer of the series.
Austin Jackson went 2-for-5 and added a solo shot in the second, as Detroit padded its lead with runs in the fifth and sixth against Danks, who labored through seven tough innings.
"It falls squarely on me," Danks said. "This is no one else's fault. It was just one of those nights. There is no other way to explain it -- just wasn't able to do what I wanted to do and a darn good team without the best hitter in the world beat the crap out of me. That's just the way it goes. I understand what happened. I understand adjustments need to be made and we will work on it."
Sanchez, meanwhile, scattered six hits and got into trouble only in the fifth -- working his way out of a one-out jam with runners on second and third to prevent any runs from scoring. He struck out five with just one walk and gave way to the bullpen after throwing 101 pitches.
The bullpen was about the only area of concern for the Tigers, who needed five relievers to polish off the final nine outs -- including Luke Putkonen, Phil Coke and closer Joaquin Benoit in the ninth.
It was the second straight game in which the Tigers' bullpen was unable to protect a comfortable lead in the ninth without having to call in Benoit in a non-save situation -- something that caught the attention of manager Jim Leyland.
"That's the one thing we've got to stop doing. We've got to start getting through that inning without having to use (Benoit) all the time, having to bring him in," Leyland said. "We just have to do that, because if we don't we're not going to have a closer. You've got an opportunity to give Benoit (a night off) and you've got a day game (Thursday) and we can't get through it. We didn't do it last night and we didn't do it again tonight. That's just not acceptable. You've got to do better than that. I'm not upset with anybody, but that's the facts of life."
Otherwise, Detroit's pitching was outstanding again. It was a continuation of dominant starting pitching in this series by the Tigers, starting with Max Scherzer allowing two earned runs in eight innings on Monday night to earn his 14th win. Rick Porcello followed that up with an impressive win of his own on Tuesday, throwing seven scoreless innings in the Tigers' 6-2 victory, and Sanchez displayed his mastery on Wednesday. The White Sox haven't scored off a Tigers starting pitcher in 13 innings -- dating back to the second run they plated off Scherzer on Monday.
Dayan Viciedo went 3-for-4 with two runs and a solo homer in the ninth to lead Chicago, but the Sox (39-59) continue to tailspin. They haven't been 20 games below the .500 mark since 2007 and are 15-35 in their last 50 games.
NOTES: The White Sox got some positive news from 2B Gordon Beckham, who took some swings to test out his strained left wrist and felt like he could take at-bats in a game if the team were in a pinch. Beckham is likely to get the series finale off Thursday, but he might be able to avoid a trip to the disabled list. ... RHP Jesse Crain is still tentatively scheduled to throw another bullpen side session Thursday in his recovery from a shoulder strain. ... Leyland did not discuss Cabrera's injury timetable, other than to say he felt better than Tuesday. ... Tigers 2B Omar Infante (ankle) and LHP Darin Downs (rotator cuff tendinitis) started minor league rehab assignments at low-A West Michigan on Wednesday. ... Detroit signed former RHP prospect Jair Jurrjens to a minor league contract on Wednesday. He will pitch at Triple-A Toledo to start out.