CHICAGO – Alejandro De Aza returned to the majors Wednesday and it sure looks as if he plans on staying for a while.
De Aza hit a two-run homer in his first at-bat of the season and the Chicago White Sox beat the Detroit Tigers 2-1 on Wednesday.
De Aza, who was called up earlier in the day to fill a roster spot opened by a trade, connected against Max Scherzer (11-6) in the second, hitting an 0-2 pitch over the wall in right for his first major league homer.
"Right on time," White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said of his new center fielder. "In the right place in the right time."
Austin Jackson hit a leadoff homer in the seventh but that was it for Detroit against John Danks (4-8) and two relievers.
Danks (4-8), who left after Jackson's fifth homer, matched a career high with 10 strikeouts while improving to 4-0 with a sparkling 0.98 ERA in his last six starts. The left-hander allowed six hits and walked three.
"I felt like I had as good of stuff as I've had all year," Danks said. "It was a little frustrating not being to be able to throw the ball exactly where I wanted it. I felt like I was effectively wild. We'll take it."
Chris Sale replaced Danks and worked 2 2-3 perfect innings before Sergio Santos got the last out for his 21st save in 24 chances.
"Sale came up huge," Guillen said. "I think that was the best part of the game when Sale went out there and did what he did."
Scherzer (11-6) struck out eight in six innings, yielding six hits and four walks. The 6-foot-3 right-hander is 1-2 in three starts against the White Sox this season despite a 1.64 ERA.
"I made one mistake and it cost me," Scherzer said. "I hung an 0-2 changeup and he was able to lift it out and that was the difference in the game.
"I didn't throw it with 100 percent conviction. I don't know why. Because the next time I faced him, I threw with 100 percent conviction and I was able to execute like I wanted."
The White Sox closed within 3½ games of Detroit in the AL Central, a threshold Chicago has reached, but not surpassed, since mid-April. The Tigers fell to 23-13 against AL Central opponents, still the best intradivision record in the league.
"We continue in the pennant race," Guillen said. "We're chasing these people. Hopefully, can continue to play the way we are playing right now. The series is over, now we have to worry about the next one."
Alexei Ramirez had a one-out walk ahead of De Aza's homer in his 195th at-bat in the majors. The speedy outfielder had previous stints with the White Sox and Florida Marlins.
"I tried to do my best, tried to get a hit," De Aza said. "Good things happened. As soon as I hit the ball and looked out there and saw it was a (homer)."
De Aza was called up from Triple-A Charlotte after the White Sox traded starting pitcher Edwin Jackson and utilityman Mark Teahen to the Toronto Blue Jays for reliever Jason Frasor and pitching prospect Zach Stewart. He received a hearty welcome back in the dugout after his homer.
"(The team was) all over me, just congratulating me," De Aza said.
White Sox general manager Kenny Williams said De Aza will get regular playing time in place of Alex Rios, who is hitting .208. Williams said "Rios is going to have to take a back seat now."
Rios hasn't homered since June 19.
Danks used all those strikeouts to work out of several jams.
The Tigers loaded the bases with one out in the third, but Danks struck out Ryan Raburn and got Magglio Ordonez to bounce into a force play.
Danks walked Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez with none out in the fourth, then struck out Jhonny Peralta, Carlos Guillen and Wilson Betemit in order to end the inning, all swinging.
"Fortunately I was able to throw a couple of cutters there and they swung over them," Danks said. "I was able to pitch out of it."
Danks struck out Ordonez with two runners on in the fifth. Ordonez entered the game hitting .577 (15 for 26) career against Danks.
"Danks was tremendous," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "He had his cutter going, really nasty. Not that it was easy to get him, because it wasn't, but the thing that frustrates you a little bit is when you have opportunity after opportunity."
The White Sox just missed adding to their lead in the seventh.
Adam Dunn drew a one-out walk to load the bases for Carlos Quentin, who missed a grand slam by a few feet, his drive hooking outside the foul pole in left. He drove the next pitch down the right-field line, but it curled into the seats.
Quentin finally flied out to shallow left and Juan Pierre was cut down at the plate by left fielder Raburn.
"Two runs in this ballpark is a tremendous job by your starting pitcher," Leyland said. "We just didn't do a very good job offensively today when we had the opportunities."
Chicago is off Thursday before facing a critical seven-game stretch against the AL East-leading Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees at U.S. Cellular Field.
Danks said the White Sox (51-52) are well positioned despite struggling for much of the season.
"I think before it's said and done, we're going to be a team to be reckoned with," Danks said. "There's plenty of baseball against our division to play. This should make for a fun stretch."
NOTES: Danks also struck out 10 against Texas on May 9, 2009. ... Dunn reached base four times in a game for the first time since May 31. He remained 2 for 68 against left-handers after walking against Phil Coke in the seventh. ... The Tigers concluded a seven-game road trip and now return home to begin a seven-game homestand on Thursday against the Angels. Detroit went 4-3 on the trip. ... Chicago improved to 3-7 in its last 10 games against Detroit at home. ... Chicago slugger Paul Konerko struck out three times for second time this season and first time since April 23. ... Despite the loss, the Tigers have won 15 of their last 21 games against the White Sox.