DETROIT -- Jarrod Saltalamacchia's go-ahead two-run homer pulled the Tigers out of their offensive doldrums and back on top in the eighth inning Monday night, sending Detroit to a desperately needed 4-3 win over the White Sox at Comerica Park.
"We always seemed to be one hit away from scoring a couple runs," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said, "and Salty came up huge."
Detroit moved within a game of Baltimore for the second AL Wild Card spot after the Orioles lost to the Blue Jays, while the victory kept the Tigers within 4 1/2 games of Cleveland in the AL Central.
The Tigers were five outs away from a third consecutive loss at home to a team with a losing record, having been held to two runs over six innings by struggling Sox starter James Shields.
Tyler Saladino's seventh-inning homer off Alex Wilson gave Chicago a 3-2 lead before hard-throwing Nate Jones put the potential tying run on with a leadoff walk to J.D. Martinez in the eighth.
Jones (5-3) spotted a 98-mph fastball on the corner to strike out Justin Upton, but left a 97-mph heater over the heart of the plate to Saltalamacchia, who skied a ball deep to right-center just over the out-of-town scoreboard. Saltalamacchia's 12th home run of the season was his fifth to change a lead in the sixth inning or later.
• Salty continues to come up clutch
"It's about wins, regardless of whether I do it or somebody else does it," Saltalamacchia said. "If I hit a home run and we lose, it doesn't mean anything. The win is what makes me feel a lot better for sure."
Justin Wilson (4-4) stranded runners at second and third with a strikeout of Todd Frazier to end the seventh, then retired the side in the eighth. Melky Cabrera sent a Francisco Rodríguez pitch to the warning track in right-center, but Tyler Collins caught it at the track to end it.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Saladino's big game: The Tigers tied the game in the sixth inning, but Saladino broke the tie in a hurry, driving a 1-2 fastball into the White Sox bullpen in left-center field for a solo home run. It was Saladino's second homer in three games. He had gone 58 at-bats between home runs before hitting one out against Seattle on Saturday. He also drove in a pair of runs in the fourth with a single to give Chicago a 2-1 lead.
"He's been playing great," manager Robin Ventura said of the No. 9 hitter. "With the home runs, I think you look at it and you don't see him as a home run hitter, but he's got the ability to hit one out of the ballpark. He's got some home run power."
Upton strikes again: Shields hadn't had a homerless outing since his last visit to Comerica Park on Aug. 2, an outing in which he gave up six runs. He had five innings of one-run ball until he left a cutter over the plate to the red-hot Upton, whose line drive barely cleared the left-field fence. The game-tying solo shot was Upton's fifth homer in eight games.
Defense helps Shields: Shields found himself in a bit of early trouble when he hit Cameron Maybin to lead off the first inning. Ian Kinsler then ripped a ball to third base, with an exit velocity of 100 mph, according to Statcast™. Frazier caught it and doubled off Maybin at first. Shields settled in after that to post his first quality start of August, allowing fewer than four runs for the first time all month.
Shields didn't have an answer for what flipped between starts, but said maybe luck had something to do with it.
"I feel like my last three outings I've been pounding the strike zone pretty good, especially my last outing, even though I let up four runs," Shields said. "Sometimes it goes your way, sometimes it doesn't, so I'm just going to build off this start and finish strong." More >
Wilson escapes jam: Aside from injured starters, Alex Wilson hadn't made an appearance before an out in the sixth all season. With two on, nobody out and Matt Boyd at 94 pitches, however, Ausmus looked to him for an early escape. A José Abreu double-play grounder and a Frazier groundout stopped the momentum there, followed by a 1-2-3 sixth inning before Saladino handed Wilson his first home run allowed since May 28.
"I know he gave up the run," Ausmus said, "but Alex Wilson, because of the shape of our bullpen in terms of usage, was huge for us today."
"You're moving into September, and September's a lot different now with that second Wild Card. It seems like there's a lot more teams that are competing and trying to get into the playoffs. Every win is memorable when it comes to this time of year." -- Kinsler
"If anybody in the league has an idea about those guys, it's probably going to be him." -- Ventura, on former Tigers catcher Alex Avila giving Shields an advantage with his knowledge of his old team
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Rodriguez's 37th save of the season was the 423rd of his career, moving him past Billy Wagner for sole possession of fifth place on Major League Baseball's all-time list. K-Rod's next save will tie him with John Franco for fourth.
Maybin, playing through a sprained left thumb for the past week, left the game when he injured the thumb again on a slide into second base. Maybin appeared to catch his thumb between the bag and Saladino's left knee when Saladino tried to tag him. The tag was superfluous, since Maybin took off on ball four, but Maybin had to leave for pinch-runner Tyler Collins. Maybin is listed as day-to-day after X-rays were negative.
White Sox:Anthony Ranaudo (0-1, 7.88) starts Tuesday's game at Comerica Park at 6:10 p.m. CT. It will be his third start since returning from a stint with Triple-A Charlotte. He has allowed 11 earned runs in 9 ⅓ innings in his last two starts.
Tigers:Daniel Norris (2-2, 3.63), who pitched 10 innings of one-hit scoreless ball in two starts against the White Sox last year, will face them for the first time this season when he takes the mound Tuesday in a 7:10 p.m. ET start.
Watch every out-of-market regular-season game live on MLB.TV.