With one-out in the sixth inning, Brent Morel hit a chopper down the third-base line. Brandon Inge backhanded it behind the bag and made a throw in the dirt that first baseman Miguel Cabrera couldn't field cleanly to attempt a tag on Morel.
"I still don't think I would've thrown a no-hitter," Penny said. "My pitch count was getting up there. I'm sure I would've given up a hit at some point."
Official scorer Ron Kleinfelter called it a hit, not an error that would've kept the no-hitter intact, after watching the replay.
"My decision is based on my understanding and application of ordinary effort," Kleinfelter said 45 minutes after the game. "Based on that, I stand by my call. It was a base hit. Pure and simple."
Most of 35,227 fans at Comerica Park booed, but Tigers manager Jim Leyland agreed with Kleinfelter's decision.
"I thought it was a hit," Leyland said. "It was a nasty play, a tough play, and he didn't get what he wanted to on the throw."
Chicago's Juan Pierre, who was standing in the on-deck circle during the play, also thought the scorer got it right.
"There's no way that's a routine play," Pierre said. "Inge makes a lot of plays look routine, but that doesn't mean they are, especially since Mo can get down the line."
Penny (1-2) pitched seven innings, allowing a hit and walking two over his 95-pitch outing. He started the game winless with a 8.44 ERA in his first season with the Tigers. The two-time All Star insisted it didn't bother him to potentially come close to his first no-hitter.
"To get the win is a lot more important," Penny said.
The Tigers (11-10) have won three straight to go over the .500 mark for the first time this year.
"This doesn't mean we're on a roll," Leyland said.
Edwin Jackson (2-2) gave up eight runs -- seven earned -- on 12 hits and four walks over 5 2/3 innings.
Detroit has eight straight victories against the White Sox, dating to Sept. 7, 2010, for its longest winning streak against them since winning as many consecutive games from 1949-50.
The Tigers scored five runs in the fourth to give Penny more than enough support.
Penny was perfect until hitting Carlos Quentin on a full-count pitch with two outs in the fourth.
After Morel reached first, Pierre walked. Penny got out of a two-on, one-out jam in the sixth by getting Alexei Ramirez to fly out and hot-hitting Quentin to pop out.
Jackson held the Tigers scoreless through three innings, then they scored five in the fourth thanks in part to some poor defense and three more in the sixth.
Jhonny Peralta's liner to left was mishandled by Pierre, letting two runs score. Alex Avila followed with a triple on a deep fly that faded away from center fielder Alex Rios, allowing two more to score. Inge scored the final run of the inning on a headfirst slide, beating a throw from shortstop Ramirez on a fielder's choice.
Detroit's Ryan Perry replaced Penny in the eighth and promptly gave up singles to the first two White Sox he faced, but bounced back to strand runners. After Ryan Raburn drove in his seventh run in two games against Chicago, Al Alburquerque pitched the ninth to complete the combined shutout for the Tigers.
"We need amnesia after a game like that," Pierre said. "Doesn't matter if it is the 21st game or the 161st."
Chicago has lost nine of 10 after starting the season 7-4, and manager Ozzie Guillen said he hopes his players are tired of getting beat.
"We need to cut this off right now," Guillen said. "It seems like we are waiting every day to lose the game. It is time to show people how good we are."
Tigers RHP Rick Porcello will have his next start skipped in the rotation in part because of the team's day off Monday. ... White Sox RHP Jake Peavy is scheduled to throw on the side Sunday, taking another step toward a tentatively scheduled start April 28 after his surgically repaired shoulder was tender and irritated.