DETROIT (AP) - Justin Verlander pitched himself out of a third-inning jam Sunday.
Two innings later, he was happy to escape another with the help of his defense. He went seven strong innings as the Detroit Tigers swept the Chicago White Sox with a 5-2 victory Sunday.
Alex Avila, who has caught more of Verlander's starts than any other player, opened the third with a walk and took third on Tyler Saladino's double. Verlander, though, got Adam Eaton to tap back to the mound before striking out Jason Coats and Abreu to end the inning.
"That early in the game, you just don't want to do something stupid," Verlander said. "You can't take the mindset that you are going to throw perfect pitches and end up with a disaster on your hands. I just kept making my pitches and got out of it without any damage."
The Tigers took advantage in the bottom half, with Cameron Maybin drawing a two-out walk and scoring on Miguel Cabrera's double. Two innings later, things played out even better for Detroit.
Tigers shortstop Jose Iglesias saved Verlander in the top of the fifth, making a diving stop of Saladino's one-out grounder to hold Jimmy Rollins at third. James McCann then grabbed Eaton's bunt and threw him out at first to end the inning.
"That was a massive play by Iggy on Saladino, and then McCann makes a huge play a few seconds later,"
Verlander said. "Those two guys deserve the credit for getting me out of that one."
Jose Quintana walked J.D. Martinez with the bases loaded to make it 2-1 in the bottom half and Nick Castellanos followed with an RBI single. Justin Upton drove a 3-0 fastball into the left field corner for a two-run double that ended Carlos Quintana's day.
Upton came into the game hitting .214 and had been dropped to seventh in Brad Ausmus' batting order.
"He said that he'd been feeling better the last couple days, so I figured I'd give him the green light on 3-0 and see if he could get a fastball," Ausmus said. "When a guy is struggling, there are times that you can get him going by giving him a shot at a pitch like that. Hopefully, this will help."
Detroit came into the series having lost eight of its last 10 games against left-handed starters, but beat a trio of Chicago lefties: Carlos Rodon, Chris Sale and Quintana.
"We knew we were going to hit lefties better than we have, especially with our lineup, but this was big," Ausmus said. "Rodon's a younger guy, but he's got great upside, and Sale and Quintana are two of the best lefty starters in the game today."
Verlander (5-5) allowed homers to Jose Abreu and Todd Frazier, but only gave up five hits and a walk while striking out eight.
Shane Greene and Francisco Rodriguez finished, with Rodriguez picking up his 15th save.
Quintana (5-6) took the loss, allowing a season-high five runs on nine hits and three walks in 4 2/3 innings. It was the first time he didn't finish five innings.
"I have a lot of confidence in all of my pitches right now, but I just missed my spot a couple times today," he said. "I've never walked anyone with the bases loaded before, and that changed the game for me."
White Sox: Coats, who needed five stitches in his mouth after an outfield collision ended his major league debut Saturday, was back in the lineup. Chicago was shorthanded in the outfield, with Austin Jackson battling turf toe and Melky Cabrera away from the team to deal with a family emergency.
"We're banged up right now," White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. "You miss having Melky in the middle of the order and having Austin contributing."
Tigers: Cabrera, who has been having trouble with stiffness in his lower back, seemed to be struggling on a sixth-inning at-bat, but stayed in the game.
With Avila back in the lineup for Chicago in his first series as a visitor in Detroit, his former teammates continued to have fun with him. After Verlander walked him in the third, he threw over to first, causing the slow-footed Avila to burst into laughter. Later in the game, after Miguel Cabrera struck out on a pitch in the dirt, he kept trying to embrace Avila as he was trying to gather up the ball.
"It was really weird pitching to Alex," Verlander acknowledged. "I walked him, and then he got a hit off me and yelled 'Ha ha!' as he was running to first, so I guess he's got the advantage right now."
Chicago: Off on Monday before returning home for a three-game series against Washington.
Detroit: Open a three-game home series with Toronto on Monday. Michael Fulmer (5-1, 3.24) faces J.A. Happ (6-2, 3.06). Fulmer has won three straight starts, allowing one run in 22 1/3 innings.