DETROIT -- Max Scherzer has done more than just salvage his season.
Scherzer allowed four hits in eight scoreless innings, and the Tigers pulled within a game of first place with a 5-1 victory over the White Sox on Saturday night. After an awful start to 2012 -- his ERA was 6.26 on May 15 -- Scherzer has bounced back impressively. He's now won five straight starts, providing a dependable complement to ace Justin Verlander.
"I knew coming in tonight this was a huge start for us," Scherzer said. "We needed to win this game to get us back in the thick of things."
Detroit has taken the first two games of this series from the AL Central-leading White Sox and will send Verlander to the mound Sunday night to try for a sweep. Scherzer (15-6) struck out nine with one walk.
Delmon Young homered and tripled for the Tigers.
Francisco Liriano (5-11) allowed three runs, four hits and seven walks in four-plus innings. Chicago was swept in a three-game set in Detroit in July, momentarily ceding first place to the Tigers. Now the White Sox are in danger of being caught atop the division.
"There's a long way to go. You're still where you want to be," Chicago manager Robin Ventura said. "No use hanging your head. Still a lot worse places you could be."
Scherzer increased his strikeout total to 204, becoming the first pitcher to reach 200 this year. He and Liriano are two of the three pitchers who have struck out at least 15 in a game this season. The other is Chris Sale, Chicago's starter Sunday.
Scherzer has struck out at least eight in nine straight starts.
"He threw as good a performance as we've had thrown against us, just stuff-wise," Ventura said. "Looked like he was in and out and spotting his pitches."
Detroit opened the scoring with two runs in the third. Brennan Boesch, who has struggled this year but entered the game 5 for 11 lifetime against Liriano, hit an RBI triple and came home on Miguel Cabrera's single.
Young led off the Detroit fifth with a drive that hit the top of the wall in left-center and came back in play for a triple. He eventually scored on a two-out single by Avisail Garcia, the first big league hit for the right fielder.
Young's next hit -- in the seventh -- had enough distance to clear the fence for his 16th homer of the year. Cabrera added another RBI single in the eighth.
The Tigers have won 24 of their last 30 home games.
"We know we need to win games," Detroit manager Jim Leyland said. "I usually don't emphasize series. I did say this is a bigger series."
The White Sox were without slugger Adam Dunn, who was sitting out with a strained oblique.
Scherzer struck out Kevin Youkilis in the eighth for his final out, then took off his hat to acknowledge the crowd before getting a handshake from manager Jim Leyland.
"When our offense is scoring runs, they're making their starter work, we're getting hits -- big hits -- it makes it fun to go out there and pitch well," Scherzer said. "Any time the team wins, in this situation, with where we're at with the season, it just puts a smile on my face."
Chicago used eight pitchers. ... Scherzer lowered his ERA to 3.93. ... The White Sox entered September with a division lead for the fifth time since 1993. They ended up finishing first the other four times -- in 1993, 2000, 2005 and 2008. ... Chicago RHP Deunte Heath made his major league debut in the eighth, getting Prince Fielder to hit into a double play. ... Ventura said LHP Hector Santiago will start Monday night against Minnesota.