DETROIT — JaCoby Jones is the latest youngster to give the Detroit Tigers a boost in their push for a postseason spot.
Jones doubled twice in his second major league game, then dashed home for the winning run on a sacrifice fly by Tyler Collins in the ninth inning to lift the Tigers over the Chicago White Sox 3-2 on Wednesday.
After a day after doubling, singling and driving in two runs in his debut, Jones scored twice to help the Tigers complete a three-game sweep.
“He’s been a real spark plug for us — a shot in the arm,” teammate Justin Verlander said. “It’s a lot of fun to watch, and hopefully it’s the beginning of an amazing career.”
The Tigers acquired Jones last year when they traded Joakim Soria to Pittsburgh. Around the same time, they also traded David Price and Yoenis Cespedes, receiving pitchers Daniel Norris, Matt Boyd and Michael Fulmer in those deals.
Fulmer has become a front-runner for rookie of the year this season, and Norris and Boyd have also made contributions. Now Jones is in the majors and off to a fine start.
“It’s great, it’s amazing. There’s so many words I could use to describe it,” Jones said. “Just amazing, and I’m just happy.”
Jones hit a leadoff double in the ninth against David Robertson (4-3) and advanced to third on Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s deep flyball.
Collins came up as a pinch-hitter and was able to lift the ball to left-center. Avisail Garcia made the catch, but his throw bounced before it even reached the mound.
Francisco Rodriguez (2-3) pitched the ninth.
Jose Abreu and Alex Avila homered on consecutive pitches in the fourth for the White Sox.
White Sox ace Chris Sale allowed two runs and eight hits in eight innings against a Detroit lineup that was without Miguel Cabrera. The slugging first baseman sat out because his right ankle had been acting up.
Chicago was without Melky Cabrera, who missed the game because of stomach discomfort.
Verlander allowed two runs and three hits in seven innings for the Tigers, striking out nine.
“I thought both of them, Justin and (Sale), this is the kind of matchup that you expected it to be,” Chicago manager Robin Ventura said.
Verlander retired the first eight hitters he faced, striking out six of them. With two outs in the fourth, Abreu connected for his 19th homer of the year. Avila followed with a drive to the bushes beyond the wall in center, giving Chicago a 2-0 lead against his former team.
Verlander did not allow another baserunner after Avila’s home run. Detroit scored a run on Andrew Romine’s single in the fifth, and J.D. Martinez tied it with a two-out RBI single in the eighth.
The Tigers came into the day one game behind Baltimore for the American League’s second wild card.
Avila spent his entire career in Detroit before this season, and Verlander laughed when asked about giving up the home run to his former teammate.
“I know I’m going to be hearing about it,” Verlander said. “I think I’m going to ask him back for one of the watches I gifted him. It’s only fair, I think.”
NEXT YEAR’S SCHEDULE
Detroit opens against the White Sox in Chicago on April 3 and the Tigers host Boston on April 7 in their home opener, according to a draft of the 2017 preliminary schedule. The preliminary schedule will be announced by Major League Baseball in September.
Tigers: RHP Jordan Zimmermann (neck) pitched four innings in a rehab start for Triple-A Toledo at Indianapolis on Wednesday, allowing one unearned run and one hit. He walked one and struck out four.
White Sox: Chicago plays at Minnesota on Thursday night. LHP Jose Quintana (11-9) starts against Ervin Santana (6-10).
Tigers: Detroit has Thursday off before playing at Kansas City. RHP Anibal Sanchez (7-13) takes the mound against Danny Duffy (11-2) of the Royals on Friday night.
AP Baseball Writer Ronald Blum contributed to this report.