CHICAGO – Rick Porcello and the Detroit Tigers came out with added focus on Tuesday night, and they took impressive step toward closing out the AL Central title.
Porcello pitched his first career complete game, Prince Fielder homered among his four hits and Detroit snapped a three-game losing streak with a 9-1 win over the Chicago White Sox.
"We had a meeting before the game and everybody talked about coming together and finishing the season strong," Porcello said. "Everybody played their butts off today and I think and I think it really worked."
Alex Avila added four hits and two RBIs as AL Central-leading Detroit's offense finally got rolling against the sloppy White Sox, allowing the Tigers to increase their lead over Cleveland to 5 1/2 games.
Porcello (12-8) scattered seven hits, struck out five and walked one. The 24-year-old right-hander retired 14 straight after Chicago scored its only run in the fourth.
"We had a little extra spark and we were able to capitalize on the mistakes they made and played a good ballgame."
Five of Detroit's runs were unearned, thanks to four Chicago errors, including three by third baseman Conor Gillaspie. Another was charged to first baseman Paul Konerko, when Gillaspie's wide throw ticked off his glove.
Porcello, who threw 105 pitches, got stronger as the game went on.
"Ricky did a terrific job and we took advantage of a couple of breaks," Detroit manager Jim Leyland said. "He had some innings where he got some quick outs and I think that saved him."
Porcello went the distance following his worst outing of the season last Wednesday, when the Tigers were hammered 20-4 at Boston and he gave up nine runs in five innings.
"His last outing, he didn't have much stuff," Detroit pitching coach Jeff Jones said. "It's nice to see him bounce back the way he did tonight. It definitely was a shot in the arm for him."
The Tigers entered Tuesday having lost five of six and having scored only 14 runs in September — excluding their 16-run barrage on Friday at Kansas City. Detroit is trying to hold off the Indians to earn its third straight division title after winning the American League pennant in 2012.
"This is the time of year you've got to be playing well and I though we came out today with a little bit of attitude," Avila said. "We wanted to get this win and gain some momentum.
"It's been a long season and we're so close to the end, we've just got to finish it out."
Chicago, in last place in the AL Central, has lost 10 of 12, seemed doomed from the start on Tuesday night.
White Sox prospect Erik Johnson (0-2) was roughed up again and hurt by shoddy fielding in his second career start. He lasted just 3 2-3 innings, allowing six runs — two earned — on seven hits and three walks.
"I had some tough breaks out there, but I thought I attacked the zone as best that I could," Johnson said. "I could have worked ahead to a few more hitters, of course, and put myself in a better situation."
No one struggled more than Gillaspie who made two throwing errors and missed a groundball.
"Obviously it was very difficult tonight," Gillaspie said, "and I can honestly say that's probably the worst I've ever felt playing defense."
"I can't say that there's too many days where I'm kind of hoping, 'Hey I hope the ball doesn't get hit.' Tonight was one of those nights."
Suspended Detroit shortstop Jhonny Peralta will work out with the Tigers before Wednesday's game against the White Sox, GM Dave Dombrowski announced before the game. But no decision has been made to activate the two-time All-Star, who is eligible to return on Sept. 27 for the Tigers' final three regular-season games in Miami.
Peralta accepted a 50-game suspension from Major League Baseball on Aug. 5 as part of its investigation into a Florida anti-aging clinic accused of distributing performance-enhancing drugs. Peralta was hitting .305 with 11 home runs when he was suspended, and has been working out in the Dominican Republic since then.
The Tigers took a 2-0 lead in the first on a pair of unearned runs.
Detroit added three more runs — two unearned — after two outs in the third to increase its lead to 5-0.
Fielder lined a homer just inside the right field foul pole to make it 3-0. Following a single, walk and error charged to Konerko on Gillaspie's throw, Avila singled in two more unearned runs.
Fielder singled in another run in the fourth to make it 6-0. Gillaspie singled in a run in the bottom of the inning to cut it to 6-1.
Avila scored in the fifth on Gillaspie's second throwing error to extend Detroit's lead to 7-1. The Tigers added two runs in the ninth of Daniel Webb, Chicago's fourth reliever.
NOTES: Fielder had his second four-hit game of the season and Avila his second four-hit game of his career. Cabrera went 0 for 5. The Tigers have lost four games in a row only twice this season, in April and in May. . Chicago's four errors tied a season high. . White Sox OF Avisail Garcia was back in the lineup after getting two teeth pulled Monday. . In his two starts, Johnson has allowed 11 runs, but just five earned, in 9 2-3 innings.