Chicago White Sox batter Alejandro De Aza reacts after striking out during the fourth inning of a baseball game in Detroit, Saturday, July 21, 2012. In the background is Detroit Tigers catcher Gerald Laird. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
Rick Porcello pitched brilliantly into the ninth inning, and the Detroit Tigers took over first place in the AL Central on Saturday with a 7-1 victory over the Chicago White Sox.
Brennan Boesch hit a three-run homer and Austin Jackson drove in the other four runs for the Tigers, who lead the White Sox by a half-game in the Central. Detroit was six games out after a loss to the Chicago Cubs on June 12.
Porcello (7-5) fell just short of his first complete game, departing after he allowed two hard-hit singles to start the ninth. He allowed a run and five hits.
Porcello struck out four with no walks, outdueling Chris Sale (11-3) in the Chicago left-hander's first loss since May 12.
Sale allowed five runs and seven hits in seven innings. He struck out six and walked four. The Tigers will go for a three-game sweep Sunday, sending rookie Jacob Turner (0-1) to the mound against Philip Humber (4-4).
Detroit was expected by many to win the division easily after finishing 15 games in front last year and adding Prince Fielder in the offseason. But the Tigers struggled through the first half of the season and Chicago emerged.
Now the White Sox have lost four straight and six of eight. They seemed to have an advantage on the mound Saturday — Sale was 8-0 with a 1.61 ERA in his last 10 starts — but that didn't materialize.
Porcello retired the first 12 hitters he faced. Chicago took the lead in the fifth on Dayan Viciedo's RBI single, but the Tigers answered quickly.
With two outs in the bottom half, Gerald Laird and Danny Worth, Detroit's eighth and ninth hitters, hit singles. Jackson drove them both home with a double.
Boesch's homer the following inning also came with two outs, and so did Jackson's two run single in the eighth. Since the All-Star break, the Tigers have scored 35 of their 48 runs with two outs, according to STATS, LLC.
Before the break, they scored 129 of their 387 runs with two outs.
The 23-year-old Porcello has had a rocky start to his career. He won 14 games for the Tigers as a rookie in 2009, but manager Jim Leyland has essentially admitted he was rushed to the big leagues.
A few more starts like Saturday's would give Detroit quite a lift down the stretch. The crowd gave him a standing ovation when he came back to the mound for the ninth, but he wasn't able to finish for the elusive complete game. He threw 94 pitches, and the crowd repeated the warm ovation after Leyland lifted him.