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updated: 9/19/2012 11:21 PM

White Sox' lead back to 2 over Detroit

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  • White Sox shortstop Alexei Ramirez tosses his bat Wednesday after striking out in the eighth inning against the Kansas City Royals in Kansas City, Mo.

    White Sox shortstop Alexei Ramirez tosses his bat Wednesday after striking out in the eighth inning against the Kansas City Royals in Kansas City, Mo.
    Associated Press


On the same day the White Sox announced tickets for potential American League wild card and division series games at U.S. Cellular Field go on sale Friday at U.S. Cellular Field, the Kansas City Royals said, "Not so fast."

And the Tigers issued a similar statement from Detroit.

The Sox are nearly at the finish line, and they have been running first in the AL Central since July 24.

That doesn't mean the job is complete.

At this late stage of the season, momentum can change in a hurry. On Wednesday, it shifted in the Tigers' favor.

A day after standout starting pitcher Max Scherzer had to make an early exit because of shoulder fatigue, Detroit posted its second straight win over a very good Oakland team.

The White Sox, meanwhile, went down to Bruce Chen and the Royals 3-0 at Kauffman Stadium.

Holding a 2-game lead in the AL Central with 14 to play, the Sox still are in a good position to make the playoffs. But they are smart enough to realize these next two weeks are not going to be a leisurely stroll.

"We've just got to keep playing, keep winning series, and hopefully we'll be there at the end," relief pitcher Brett Myers said before the White Sox headed to Kansas City. "We've just got to keep working and not let up now."

The White Sox will win the three-game series if they beat the Royals on Thursday night, but they still have three games against the Angels in Anaheim, Calif., over the weekend and four against another playoff contender -- the Tampa Bay Rays -- at home next week.

The Tigers, on the other hand, have one more game against the A's before wrapping up the regular season with six games against the Twins and seven against the Royals.

They also might play with some added emotion in the wake of a Detroit News story Wednesday that popular manager Jim Leyland is likely out -- and Terry Francona in -- if they fail to win the Central.

The Sox beat the Royals 3-2 in the series opener Tuesday, but K.C. starter Bruce Chen worked his magic again in Wednesday's middle game. The soft-throwing lefty pitched 6 innings and combined with relievers Kelvin Herrera and Greg Holland for the shutout.

The White Sox had their chances throughout the game but wound up going 1-for-12 with runners in scoring position. Dayan Viciedo, Alexei Ramirez and Kevin Youkilis were all 0-for-3 with RISP.

Trailing 1-0, Adam Dunn and Paul Konerko drew consecutive walks off Chen to open the fourth inning, and Alex Rios singled to load the bases.

Instead of surging ahead, Viciedo and Ramirez popped out and Tyler Flowers took a called third strike to end the inning.

It was a rough night for Viciedo, who also dropped a flyball in the seventh inning that scored the Royals' final 2 runs.

Sox starter Chris Sale (17-7) pitched 6 innings and allowed 3 runs on 8 hits while losing to Kansas City for the third time this season.

It doesn't get any easier for the White Sox on Thursday night as they draw Jeremy Guthrie again. In 3 starts against the Sox this season, Guthrie has held the Sox to 2 unearned runs in 23 innings.

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