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Verlander strikes out 12 over nine

After taking the first two games of this weekend's series, the Tigers can move into a tie for first place in the American League Central with a win on Sunday night. And you couldn't ask for a much better pitching matchup for such an important game.

White Sox left-hander Chris Sale will square off with Tigers ace Justin Verlander at Comerica Park in the series finale. Both are coming off disappointing outings by their lofty standards, but they still enter Sunday's showdown among the AL leaders in wins, strikeouts, ERA, WHIP and opponents' average.

Sale gave up four runs on six hits in four innings and admitted he didn't have his best stuff Tuesday, but let there be no doubt that he knows how well he'll need to bounce back Sunday against Verlander.

"You never want to get into a little skid. ... I feel like I got to be better the next time out," Sale said. "That's just something I was trying to do the entire year, be better every time I go out there and it will be tough, this next one. I still got to take it in stride and leave it all out there."

That doesn't mean Sale is getting caught up in his competition, of course. He said he tries to avoid tuning into the hype, whether it's about himself or about how big Sunday's game could be in holding back the Tigers in the division.

"For me, it's just another game. That's the way I'm looking at it," Sale said. "You start putting tags on it and putting it to a category and [then you] try to be too good. I got to stick to my game plan and just pitch like it's just another game."

Verlander, who trails only teammate Max Scherzer (204) in the Majors with 198 strikeouts, didn't look like himself his last time out. He gave up eight runs on 12 hits against the Royals, laboring through 5 2/3 innings on 120 pitches. Verlander said he missed some of his spots in a three-run first inning, then Kansas City dropped hits in good locations the rest of the way.

But, of course, the White Sox know better than to expect a repeat performance from Verlander. They also know that they'll need Sale on top of his game if they hope to snap their six-game losing skid against the Tigers and stay alone atop the division.

"You see what he does early in the game," Sale said of Verlander. "It's kind of like he progressively gets better as the game goes. We have a heck of a lineup, and it's not easy to breeze through our guys, so we'll put up a good fight."

White Sox: Dunn sits with sore oblique
• Adam Dunn was scratched Saturday against the Tigers because of a sore right oblique that he first felt on a checked swing Wednesday in Baltimore. Dunn tried to play through the pain Thursday and Friday but finally sat Saturday, giving way to Dan Johnson at designated hitter.

When asked what was causing him pain, Dunn replied, "Everything, everyday life. Life hurts right now."

He plans to be back for Sunday's series finale, however.

"I'm putting a time on it: tomorrow," Dunn said. "Again, I think if this was life and death, I would probably go out there. We still have a lot of games left. I don't want to be too stupid."

• Johnson was one of six players called up to the Majors on Saturday, when rosters officially expanded. The White Sox also reinstated catcher Tyler Flowers from paternity leave, returned infielder Orlando Hudson and lefty Leyson Septimo from their rehab assignments and recalled right-handers Deunte Heath and Brian Omogrosso from Triple-A Charlotte.

Tigers: Raburn hampered by quad strain
• Ryan Raburn almost got back in the starting lineup Saturday for the first time since July 29. He was activated and likely would have found his name on the lineup card if not for a right quad strain sustained while he was rounding third base and scoring a run with Triple-A Toledo earlier this week. Raburn hopes to be ready for Sunday's series finale. He is 2-for-8 against Sale, and both of those hits went for extra bases.

"Had Raburn been 100 percent ... he would've been an option tonight," manager Jim Leyland said Saturday. "But he's not an option as we speak because the quad's still sore."

• Reliever Al Alburquerque will be called up Sunday, the first day he's eligible to be recalled from Toledo, to join Raburn and utility men Danny Worth and Don Kelly, reliever Luis Marte and catcher Bryan Holaday as Detroit's crop of September callups.

Worth noting
• The Tigers are the only team in the Majors without a grand slam this season. The Twins hadn't hit a grand slam before Saturday night, but Joe Mauer crushed one in the second inning against the Royals.

• White Sox lefty Hector Santiago will start Monday's series opener against the Twins. Dylan Axelrod figured to get the nod after a strong start Wednesday, but he was reassigned to Double-A Birmingham afterward and won't be eligible to return until Tuesday.

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