Max Scherzer insists he's only concerned with leading the Detroit Tigers to the AL Central crown, though he certainly wouldn't mind becoming the majors' first 20-game winner along the way.
Scherzer will try to help the Tigers reduce their magic number as he takes his fifth crack at reaching the 20-win mark Friday night against the visiting Chicago White Sox.
Prince Fielder had three hits and Torii Hunter hit his 17th home run as Detroit (89-64) moved closer to wrapping up its third straight division title with a 5-4 win over Seattle on Thursday.
While they have a healthy advantage over second-place Cleveland with nine games remaining, the Tigers won't be able to officially clinch the title until Saturday at the earliest if enough results fall into place.
Scherzer (19-3, 2.95 ERA), however, does have another opportunity to join teammate Justin Verlander (2011) as the only Detroit pitchers to reach the 20-win mark since 1991.
"I'm not sitting here chasing personal stuff down, I'm trying to win for the team," Scherzer told MLB's official website. "This is all about trying to get us into the postseason. I don't care if I win another game. If we win our division, that's all that matters."
Although Scherzer leads the majors with a 6.7 run-support average, he's received four runs while going 0-2 with a 4.70 ERA in his last four starts.
Scherzer had a season high-tying 12 strikeouts while allowing one run over seven innings Sunday, but the bullpen failed to hold a one-run lead in the eighth of a 3-2 win over Kansas City.
Now Scherzer faces the White Sox (60-92) for the second time in three starts after allowing five runs over a season-low four innings in a 5-1 loss at Chicago on Sept. 9. He had been 4-0 with a 1.26 ERA while limiting the White Sox to a .156 batting average in his previous five meetings.
Paul Konerko has gone 1 for 10 against the right-hander and is 8 for 43 (.186) versus the Tigers this season. Alexei Ramirez is 4 for 39 (.103) when facing Scherzer.
After taking two of three from visiting Minnesota, the White Sox look to build on their first series win this month by giving the ball to Andre Rienzo (2-2, 5.04).
The rookie right-hander hopes to rebound from his recent struggles. He's 1-2 with a 7.32 ERA in his last four outings, allowing seven home runs and 13 walks over 19 2-3 innings.
"It's the first time I play ball in September," Rienzo said. "But I don't feel tired. I feel good. I need to figure out little things to help me. If I can figure them out, I know I'll make the ball club next year."
Rienzo pitched well in his only start against the Tigers on Aug. 4, when he allowed two runs and four hits over six-plus innings in a 3-2, 12-inning road loss.
Victor Martinez went 1 for 2 with a walk while facing Rienzo in that meeting. He's 11 for 23 over a seven-game hitting streak against the White Sox.
The Tigers have won 10 of 16 in the season series, including a three-game home sweep Aug. 2-4.
The Associated Press News Service
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