Sizzling Tigers aim for sweep of White Sox

The Detroit Tigers are starting to make it look easy.

Today they try to stretch their winning streak to 12 games when they go for a sweep in the finale of their three-game series with the Chicago White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field.

It was the Justin Verlander show on Tuesday, as he tossed seven scoreless innings in the Tigers' 5-0 win.

In the midst of its first 11-game winning streak since September 1968, Detroit pushed its lead atop the American League Central to 12 1/2 games ahead of both the White Sox and Indians. The Tigers' magic number for clinching their first division title since winning the American League East in 1987 now stands at four.

Verlander (23-5), who has won 11 consecutive starts and leads the majors in pitching victories, gave up only six hits and two walks, and struck out six.

"The last few starts, the last five or six, the walks I had I was really just a hair off," Verlander said. "I really felt like I was starting to get back in that rhythm I've been trying to find for a little while."

He was backed by a three-run homer by Victor Martinez, while Joaquin Benoit stranded the bases loaded in the eighth to help the Tigers win.

Verlander, the first American League pitcher to have 23 wins since Barry Zito in 2002 for Oakland, is the first Tigers pitcher to win 11 straight starts since Hal Newhouser in 1946. No Detroit pitcher has won 12 consecutive starts in a single season.

Gavin Floyd (12-11) absorbed the loss and gave up four runs in 5 1/3 innings for the White Sox, who lost for the third straight time.

Getting the call for the Tigers today will be veteran righty Brad Penny, who is 10-10 with a 5.19 earned run average. Penny defeated the Minnesota Twins on Friday, as he allowed four runs and five hits in five innings.

"After the first, I know I have to go throw zeros up, no matter what our offense does, to even have a chance of being in this game," Penny said after the start. "This team, they've been doing this all year. They're going to score a lot of runs. If you can keep them somewhat close, you've got a chance to win."

Penny has defeated the White Sox three times this season and has pitched to a 3.80 ERA in four starts against them.

Chicago, meanwhile, will go with rookie Dylan Axelrod, who will be making his big league debut. Axelrod had been 9-3 with a 2.69 ERA in 26 appearances for Double-A Birmingham and Triple-A Charlotte.

"I'm definitely excited to get that chance. I want to go out there and see what I can do," Axelrod said. "It should be great."

The Tigers swept the White Sox at the start of the month and are 12-5 against them this season, but just 5-3 in the Windy City.