DETROIT -- Those who thought the White Sox wouldn't perform very well in this first series after the All-Star break, taking place at Comerica Park and against the Tigers' top two pitchers in Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer, clearly haven't paid close attention to this Jekyll-and-Hyde 2011 team.
Count out Ozzie Guillen's crew from the American League Central race, and it puts together a run turning it into a prime contender. Start to get a little optimistic about this team, and it falls flat, as shown by a 2-6 run going into the Midsummer Classic.
Following Saturday's 5-0 whitewash of the Tigers before a sellout crowd of 40,984, the White Sox cautiously expressed hope that this second, more negative trend would be erased by a consistent second-half performance.
"We haven't done anything you guys haven't seen before," said White Sox starting pitcher Edwin Jackson, who hurled his first complete game since no-hitting the Rays as a member of the D-backs on June 25 of last season. "It's a long season and it's how you finish, not how you start."
"Hopefully, this is a good start for a good second half, but we're just taking it game by game," said White Sox leadoff man Juan Pierre, who finished with four hits, one run scored and one RBI on Saturday. "When you get a pitching effort like that and move the ball like we did offensively, it makes for a good game."
Toppling Scherzer (10-5) on Saturday was made possible for the White Sox (46-48) by Jackson's third career shutout. It also was Jackson's first with the White Sox.
Jackson didn't overpower the Tigers (49-45), finishing with just two strikeouts. Instead, he challenged the impatient Detroit hitters and took advantage of stellar defense behind him to record 18 ground-ball outs and get by on an economical 101 pitches.
He pitched out of a two-on, two-out jam in the fourth when Alex Avila flew out to left field. Jackson did the same in the sixth, when Jhonny Peralta grounded back to the mound with one out and runners on first and second and Carlos Guillen grounded out to first with runners on second and third.
"We couldn't find a hole, couldn't get a big hit when we had a couple guys on," said Detroit manager Jim Leyland.
"When Edwin is around the plate, that's the kind of pitcher you will see," Guillen said. "Every time Edwin is erratic and struggles to find the plate, he has a short game. I tried to take him out in the ninth, but he wanted to go out there. He deserved to go out there and earn it. He was outstanding."
Carlos Quentin's first home run since June 8, his 18th coming as the leadoff shot in the second, gave the White Sox a 1-0 lead. They added another run in the third when Pierre singled, swiped second, moved to third on Alexei Ramirez's groundout and scored on Paul Konerko's single.
Three important insurance runs came home in the ninth against Detroit closer Jose Valverde, with Gordon Beckham, Brent Morel and Pierre each picking up RBIs. It looked as if the White Sox also scored in the seventh, when Beckham raced home on Pierre's short one-out sacrifice fly to right.
On appeal, third-base umpire Bruce Dreckman ruled Beckham left too early and erased the run with the third out of the frame.
"That one was pretty obvious," said Leyland of Beckham leaving early. "Everyone was yelling on the bench on that one."
"I wasn't 100 percent sure what it was," said Guillen, who briefly argued the call. "I was watching [Magglio] Ordonez catching the ball. I told [Dreckman], 'You have a better look than I did.'"
With their fourth straight three-game road series victory already put away, giving them an 8-2 mark in their last 10 road games, the White Sox focus on improving to 4-5 on the season against the Tigers. Detroit easily swept away the South Siders from April 22-24 at Comerica Park, including a one-hit performance from Sunday starter Brad Penny, and that infield hit from Morel was of a controversial nature.
At that point, the White Sox were in the midst of a 4-18 run, which left them 11 games under .500 and 11 games out of first. A win on Sunday would put the White Sox one game under .500 and one game closer to the Indians and Tigers at the top.
"It's not just because we won these two games that it becomes, 'There we go. We're going to win it,'" Guillen said. "They've got a great club out there. A great ballclub. They know how to play the game. We just played better the past two games."
Getting the same pitching on display during the first two games, along with the clutch hitting, over the next 68 will help the White Sox avoid a return to their previous inconsistent ways.
"These last couple games have been solid in terms of team effort," Beckham said. "The way I've described the last couple of days, especially for myself, it's just about battling. Some of the guys don't feel great up there, but we are getting hits and getting on base and putting on some pressure."
"If we continue to play like we have the last two days," Jackson said, "it could be something special here."