The American League Central has become an eight-game sprint to the finish. The Chicago White Sox hope to maintain at least a share of the division lead on Wednesday when they play the rubber match of a three-game series against the Cleveland Indians at U.S. Cellular Field.
Chicago lost sole possession of first place for the first time since Sept. 3 on Tuesday, as Corey Kluber threw seven sharp innings and Russ Canzler went 3- for-4 with a homer and two runs scored to propel Cleveland to a 4-3 win.
The White Sox' sixth loss in seven tries coupled with Detroit's win against Kansas City dropped them into a first-place tie with the Tigers.
"We knew it wasn't going to be easy," said A.J. Pierzynski, whose team had owned a three-game edge on Detroit just a week ago. "(The Tigers) are not going to go away. They'll keep playing hard."
Kluber (2-4) gave up back-to-back solo homers to Pierzynski and Dayan Viciedo in the bottom of the fifth inning, but just two other hits as the rookie hurler notched his second career victory in his longest-ever start in the majors.
Chris Perez served up a leadoff homer to Paul Konerko in the ninth, but worked out of a jam later on in the frame to notch his 37th save and enable Cleveland to bounce back from a 5-4 loss in Monday's opener of this three-game series, in which the Indians' bullpen coughed up a late lead.
Chicago starting pitcher Francisco Liriano (6-12) lasted only 3 2/3 innings and was tagged for four runs and seven hits while issuing two walks to record the loss.
Canzler finished a triple shy of the cycle to help the Indians halt a string of six consecutive setbacks to Chicago, with Shin Soo-Choo contributing two hits and an RBI to the winning effort.
On Wednesday Chicago turns to rookie left-hander Hector Santiago, who gets the start in part because manager Robin Ventura wanted to push Jake Peavy back a day to keep ace Chris Sale on schedule for a start on Saturday. Plus Cleveland is just 16-35 against left-handed starters this season.
Having Sale stay on schedule keeps him in line if a one-game playoff is needed to decide the AL Central.
Santiago has made just two starts for the White Sox this season and is 1-1, while allowing just one run in nine innings of those outings. Overall he is 3-1 with four saves and a 3.45 ERA in 40 appearances.
"You watch other guys get (the Indians) out. You learn from them. I'm (glad) they consider me for that," Santiago said. "I feel like I have a tougher time [against left-handed hitters] because of my slider, but I don't go out there and think about that."
Cleveland, meanwhile, will turn to right-handed sinkerballer Justin Masterson, who is 11-15 with a 4.97 ERA. Masterson lost his third straight start on Friday in Kansas City, as the Royals reached him for four runs in six innings.
He is 4-5 in 17 games (13 starts) versus the White Sox with a 2.50 ERA.
Chicago is 9-5 versus the Indians this season.