The Tigers have prevailed in a season-high 12 straight games, the longest winning streak since a 14-game burst in 1934, and posted their fourth consecutive series sweep with Wednesday's improbable 6-5 win in 10 innings against the Chicago White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field.
Ryan Raburn and Alex Avila each hit pinch-hit home runs in the top of the ninth inning and Carlos Guillen singled in the go-ahead run in the 10th for the American League Central-leading Tigers, who trimmed their magic number to two and are closing in on the first division title since winning the AL East in 1987. Detroit hasn't made the playoffs since 2006 and is 13 1/2 games ahead of both the White Sox and Indians in the division. It could clinch the division with a win and some help tonight.
"It shows how well we're playing right now," Raburn said about the winning streak. "Everything is coming together, pitching and offense. That's the key to winning ballgames."
Phil Coke pitched a scoreless ninth inning for the win and Jose Valverde struck out the side in the bottom of the 10th to earn his 44th save of the year. Brad Penny started the game and lasted six innings, allowing five runs, one of which was earned, and eight hits in the no-decision.
Max Scherzer draws the start for the sizzling Tigers tonight and he is 3-1 in his last four decisions. He did factor in the outcome of Saturday's 3-2 win over Minnesota and allowed two runs in seven innings of work. He is 14-8 with a 4.27 earned run average in 30 starts this season. Scherzer defeated Oakland the only time he faced them last May 30 and tossed 5 2/3 shutout innings in a 10-2 victory at Comerica Park. The righty fanned 14 batters that day.
Detroit is 3-0 on a nine-game trek against the White Sox, A's and Royals.
Meanwhile, the Athletics are out to play spoiler, but have lost two straight and six of nine games, including Wednesday's 4-1 loss versus the LA Angels of Anaheim at the Coliseum.
Rich Harden was outdueled by Halos ace Jered Weaver and suffered the loss, allowing three runs and seven hits in 5 1/3 frames. Weaver held Oakland to a run and six hits in seven innings for his 17th win (17-7).
"That's kind of been the story of my year so far," said Harden. "It's been making pitches late in the game, a mistake here or there that's cost me. It's frustrating to lose it like that."
Josh Willingham homered to account for the scoring, while David DeJesus and Brandon Allen finished with two hits apiece for the A's, who are 1-2 on a 10- game homestand versus Anaheim, Detroit and Texas.
Toeing the rubber for Oakland this evening will be Brandon McCarthy and he's 8-8 with a 3.45 earned run average in 22 starts this season. He has lost two of his last three outings and previously took the mound in Friday's 13-4 setback at the Rangers, as he surrendered four runs -- three earned -- and six hits in six innings.
McCarthy was coming off the second shutout of his career and first this season in a 3-0 win versus Seattle on Sept. 3. In 14 career games (7 starts) against the Tigers, the right-hander is 1-3 with a 4.36 ERA. He is 5-3 in 11 home outings this season.
The 2011 series between the Tigers and Athletics is tied at 3-3.