DETROIT -- Sometime during the bottom of the eighth inning in Sunday's 18-2 destruction enacted by the Tigers upon the White Sox, a rousing fireworks display began to go off and light up the Detroit skyline in the distance.
It's a good thing these same pyrotechnics weren't used every time the Tigers crossed the plate, or the city might have completely used up its budget in this area.
To say this weekend was an utterly dominant performance by the Tigers (78-62) certainly would not fall in the category of hyperbole. Detroit swept the third-place White Sox (68-69) in a series Chicago needed to win at the very least, leaving Ozzie Guillen's crew 8 1/2 games out of first place in the American League Central and two games behind the second-place Indians.
Instead of putting themselves in position to pull off an improbable but not impossible final-month comeback, the White Sox watched their elimination number sliced to 16.
And how did Detroit produce this weekend whitewash? The answer seems fairly obvious after watching these three games -- the Tigers clearly are a better team than the White Sox.
"I don't think there's any doubt on that," said Mark Buehrle, the White Sox starting and losing pitcher on Sunday. "Obviously, we needed to come here and try to make a statement. Try to win two of three, if not try to sweep them to give us a chance. It was the furthest from what happened."
"The guys were ready to play," said Tigers manager Jim Leyland, speaking of the series finale, although his sentiment would have covered the whole weekend. "It's really not the kind of game you want to see at the Major League level. It was a game where if we hit the ball hard, it would fall in and if we hit the ball soft, it fell in."
Make no mistake about it, the Tigers did a lot of hitting against Buehrle (11-7) and four relievers. They scored one in the first, three in the third, five in the fourth, seven in the sixth and added two in the eighth for good measure in their season-best output for runs and hits. The 24 hits they knocked out stand as the most allowed by the White Sox this season and the most in the history of Comerica Park.
This was a complete series drubbing reminiscent of the Yankees' four-game home sweep over the White Sox from Aug. 1-4. But this division matchup clearly featured more on the line for the vanquished.
"Their whole team is hot right now," White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski said of the Tigers. "Every guy is hitting. You look at their lineup, and [Austin] Jackson gets it going, but [the other guys] have had very good years."
"Very disappointing," Guillen said. "I thought we were going to play better here. All the players will say the same stuff. But this weekend is over with. You have to come back and keep playing tomorrow."
Tomorrow quickly becomes a split doubleheader at Target Field for the White Sox, with the first game being played on about five or six hours of sleep. They also will have to shake some of these bad memories from their psyches before facing the Twins.
John Danks, Gavin Floyd and Buehrle seemed to be the three best pitchers the White Sox could have lined up for this crucial series. Factoring in the seven earned runs Buehrle allowed on 10 hits over 3 1/3 innings, the trio combined to give up 19 runs on 27 hits over 13 innings.
"Not a good one to go into the doubleheader tomorrow," Buehrle said. "I apologize to the bullpen. They had to take up a lot."
Shane Lindsay was the story of the day on Friday, making his Major League debut in front of his mother, Kerry, who flew for 24 hours from Australia to see him in action. On Sunday, he was touched up for seven runs on eight hits over a 44-pitch sixth.
"We don't want to put the kid through it, but we have to do it," said Guillen. "We have to do it because if we don't, our choices weren't good ones."
"Doesn't take too much to figure out," Lindsay said. "We have a doubleheader tomorrow and our starter is out in the fifth. Someone has to make up the innings. I didn't get my job done."
Every Tigers starter but Ryan Raburn had two hits, with Raburn getting one. Alex Avila led the outburst with four hits, while Brandon Inge and Victor Martinez had three hits apiece. Five Tigers hitters had multiple RBIs. Andy Dirks, who entered as pinch-hitter in the sixth, drove in four.
Max Scherzer (14-8) was the benefactor of this support, and he stopped the White Sox cold over seven innings. It was not a particularly well-played game by the White Sox, who committed three errors, but then again, a large amount of the credit should go to the Tigers.
There was no proverbial towel being thrown in Sunday night by Guillen, like a trainer trying to save his overmatched fighter. With the on-field excellence exhibited by the Tigers during this sweep, the White Sox manager basically had that towel taken from him and spiked.
"Mathematically, we are not out of it," Buehrle said. "Any smart man ain't going to like our chances. But we have 25 games left and have to go out and keep on fighting."
"I'm not going to give up or give in. Hopefully, we leave here and we play better," Guillen said. "But we put ourselves in a very, very, very tough position."