CHICAGO — Miguel Cabrera reached 300 home runs with the Tigers, Justin Verlander eclipsed 200 strikeouts on the season and Francisco Rodriguez moved into fourth place on the career saves list.
Yet it took Justin Upton coming through in the clutch for a second straight day to keep Detroit tied for the final AL playoff spot.
Upton hit a three-run home run in the 11th inning and the Tigers beat the Chicago White Sox 5-3 on Monday for their 11th win in 14 games.
Chris Beck (1-1) issued consecutive two-out walks to Victor Martinez and J.D. Martinez before Upton crushed a 1-2 fastball to right for his 21st home run. It was his second game-winning homer in two days after connecting in the eighth inning Sunday against Kansas City.
“That’s what you live for, man,” Upton said. “That’s what you play the game for, the big moment when you can help your team out.”
Detroit’s hot streak has coincided with Upton’s tear. He has eight home runs in 14 games.
“I’ve been on time a lot more,” Upton said. “I’m giving myself a better opportunity to see the ball and put good swings on it.”
Cabrera homered twice and had four hits off Chris Sale, and Verlander struck out 11 in seven innings as the Tigers stayed tied with Baltimore for the second AL wild card.
Cabrera became the fourth player to reach 300 homers with the Tigers with a liner to right in the first. He secured his fifth multihomer game of the season with a drive to left-center in the third, his 31st of the season.
“He’s probably one of the most elite right-hand hitters in the history of the game,” Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. “He continues to hit. He’s got a tremendous, mechanically-sound swing and he’s extremely strong.”
Cabrera also singled and doubled for his sixth four-hit game of the season. He had all but two of the hits allowed by Sale, who struck out eight and walked none in eight innings.
Alex Wilson (2-0) gave up one hit in the 10th and Rodriguez allowed a run in the 11th before securing his 39th save. He moved past John Franco for fourth on the saves list with 425.
Verlander allowed eight hits and saw his chance for a 15th win dashed when former Tigers catcher Alex Avila tied it with a solo homer in the seventh. It was Avila’s second homer off Verlander in five days.
“For whatever reason, catchers tend to hit the guys they’ve caught for a long time pretty well,” Verlander said.
It was the second Verlander-Sale matchup in a week. Neither ace factored in the decision in Detroit’s 3-2 win Wednesday, either. The White Sox again failed to support Sale and fell to 2-8 in his last 10 starts.
Chicago has gone 42-62 since beginning 23-10.
“It falls on us mostly,” Sale said. “You just have to look yourself in the mirror and say, ‘What do we have to do to change it?'”
Tigers: 2B Ian Kinsler (finger) didn’t start but pinch ran in the 11th. … CF Cameron Maybin (thumb) returned after a five-game absence. … RHP Jordan Zimmermann (neck) allowed seven runs — two earned — and six hits in 4 2/3 innings in a rehab start for Toledo. … RHP Mike Pelfrey (back) was activated off the disabled list and moved to the bullpen. “I get it,” he said. “Everybody in the rotation is throwing well.”
White Sox: Manager Robin Ventura said shutting down struggling RHP James Shields (back) is possible. Shields has allowed a major league high-tying 35 homers.
Cabrera joined Al Kaline (399), Norm Cash (373) and Hank Greenberg (306) in Detroit’s 300-homer club. Cabrera has 439 career home runs.
Verlander’s first-inning strikeout of Melky Cabrera gave him 200 in a season for the sixth time in his career and the first time since 2013.
“Reports of his demise were premature,” Ausmus said.
Chicago’s Cabrera robbed Maybin of a leadoff home run with a leaping grab at the left-field wall.
White Sox RHP Miguel Gonzalez (2-6, 4.05 ERA) returns from a groin injury Tuesday night to make his first start since Aug. 11. LHP Matt Boyd (5-2, 4.00) will be recalled from Triple-A to start for the Tigers.