Justin Verlander's second pitch of the night went sailing over the wall in right field, and the struggling ace figured out immediately what was wrong.
"I just realized pretty quickly that I didn't have great fastball control, so I started to give a little bit more effort — thinking, 'Well, if I don't have great control, I'm not going to get beat with 90 (mph) over the plate,'" Verlander said. "I'd rather get beat with 95, 96."
The White Sox didn't have much of a chance once Verlander made his crucial adjustment. He shut down Chicago after the first inning, and Delmon Young hit a tiebreaking three-run homer in the sixth Sunday night to lift the Detroit Tigers to a 4-2 victory and a share of first place in the AL Central.
Alejandro De Aza homered off Verlander (13-7) to lead off the game, but the right-hander was outstanding after that. He allowed four hits in eight innings, striking out 11 with two walks. The Tigers swept the three-game series to pull even with the White Sox atop the division.
"Like I said, this wasn't the Super Bowl today, this was a game. We had a good weekend," Detroit manager Jim Leyland said. "We just beat a very good team, a team that's been in first place for most of the year. It's going to be hard to take that away from them. They're good and they've answered every bell so far."
Chris Sale (15-6) allowed four runs and five hits in six innings.
Jose Valverde allowed a run in the ninth but held on for his 28th save in 32 chances.
Pinch-hitter Dan Johnson hit an RBI single off Valverde, and with men on first and third, Orlando Hudson hit a line drive to center. Austin Jackson momentarily misjudged it before tracking back to make the game-ending catch.
Amid a playoff-type atmosphere for a rare Sunday night game at Comerica Park, De Aza struck immediately. In his first at-bat after coming off the disabled list, he connected for his seventh homer of the year. De Aza had been out with injured ribs.
Verlander shook off that setback quickly, striking out three in the first inning and making it clear this would not be a repeat of his eight-run, 12-hit disaster at Kansas City in his previous start.
Sale was sharp too. He struck out seven and walked four, but Brennan Boesch sent a drive to center in the fifth for his 12th homer of the season, tying the game.
In the sixth, Omar Infante singled and Miguel Cabrera walked to start a Detroit rally. Prince Fielder struck out, but Young — who is on an eight-game hitting streak — homered to left. It was his 17th home run of the year.
"Just trying to put a ball in play and hope for the best," Young said. "I was looking fastballs so I can get ready and just try to make the adjustment."
When Sale returned to the dugout, he angrily sent a container of gum flying.
The lead was plenty safe with Verlander, who passed teammate Max Scherzer to take a 209-204 lead atop baseball's strikeout chart. It's the first time two Detroit pitchers have reached 200 since Mickey Lolich and Joe Coleman did it three straight seasons from 1971-73.
Verlander received a huge ovation from the crowd after striking out Dewayne Wise with his 124th and final pitch.
This is Verlander's fourth straight season with 200 strikeouts and sixth straight with 200 innings pitched.
The White Sox have lost seven straight to the Tigers. They were swept in a three-game series at Comerica in July, momentarily ceding first place to Detroit before taking it back in short order. Now the teams look set for a tense September. The Tigers begin a series with Cleveland on Monday, while the White Sox head back to Chicago for a 10-game homestand that includes a four-game showdown with Detroit from Sept. 10-13.
There was already a hint of contentiousness in this one, when Verlander and A.J. Pierzynski exchanged words during one of the Chicago designated hitter's two strikeouts.
"After the 1-0 pitch, he yelled something — two words that I could not repeat either one of them," Verlander said. "So I had some words back at him once he struck out."
Pierzynski downplayed the incident.
"The way (Max) Scherzer and Verlander pitched the last couple nights makes it tough on anybody," he said. "You could throw the '27 Yankees out there and they're going to get them out."
Scherzer went eight scoreless innings for Detroit on Saturday night.
Chicago slugger Adam Dunn missed his second straight game Sunday with a strained oblique.