CHICAGO (AP) — In a memorable month filled with exhilarating moments, Wednesday's comeback win stood out for the Detroit Tigers.
Carlos Guillen singled home the go-ahead run in the 10th inning and Detroit extended its longest winning streak in 77 years, rallying past the Chicago White Sox 6-5 for its 12th straight victory.
"We hung in there and had a real nice win," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "A really unbelievable win."
Detroit's magic number to clinch the AL Central was reduced to two when Cleveland lost 9-1 at Texas on Wednesday night. The Tigers can wrap up their first division title since 1987 on Thursday with a late-night victory at Oakland preceded by another Indians loss in Texas.
It would be Detroit's first AL Central championship. The Tigers were in the AL East in 1987.
Guillen also hit a solo homer for Detroit, which hadn't won 12 in a row since 1934 — when Hank Greenberg, Charlie Gehringer and the Tigers lost a seven-game World Series to the St. Louis Cardinals' famous Gas House Gang.
Jose Valverde struck out the side in the 10th to remain perfect in 44 save opportunities this year.
Closing in on an AL Central title, the surging Tigers rallied for three runs in the ninth off Chicago's bullpen to prevent rookie Dylan Axelrod from earning his first career win.
Ryan Raburn's pinch-hit homer with one out off Chris Sale brought the Tigers within two. Magglio Ordonez walked, chasing Sale. Alex Avila pinch-hit for Andy Dirks and hit Sergio Santos' second pitch into the seats in right-center to tie it.
The Tigers have won 22 of their last 26 games overall and 21 of 27 against the White Sox.
"We've just been on a roll and able to do it with all aspects of the game," Avila said. "The biggest thing is everybody is contributing, so that's the biggest reason why we're rolling."
Guillen, a three-time All-Star, hadn't started a game Sept. 3 — but Leyland had no doubt the 14-year veteran would be ready to contribute.
"I'm happier for him than anybody else today," Leyland said. "He's been working like everybody else. He's a proud guy. He's a pro and he knows he hadn't played for 10 days. He wants to show people he's a very capable player. He showed that today."
Guillen hit the ball hard in all five plate appearances.
"He must have a dumb manager," Leyland said. "Dumb managers sit guys for 10 days and when they come out, they hit (five) balls hard. I must be pretty dumb."
Speaking in the middle of a jubilant Tigers clubhouse, Guillen said he's experienced this kind of scene before.
"When I was with Seattle in 2001, we won 116 games," Guillen said. "It's very similar. Similar feeling. The way the things happen, every day somebody comes through, different guys."
Axelrod struck out eight and threw six strong innings in his first career start just two years after pitching for the independent Windy City ThunderBolts.
"It's nice to get individual accolades like wins and things, but it's a team game," Axelrod said. "Unfortunately we came out on the losing end, but I was happy with what I did and just want to continue to build off that."
Santos (4-5) blew his sixth save of the season.
"It's a shame," White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said. "(Axelrod is) pitching very well and all of a sudden we just blew it for him. Very nice day, you see this kid having success in his first time in the big leagues and all of a sudden, poof, another bad day for the White Sox."
Miguel Cabrera singled, doubled and scored a run for Detroit.
Alexei Ramirez laced a two-run double and Paul Konerko added a two-run single during Chicago's four-run second. Konerko reached 100 RBIs for the sixth time in his career.
Tigers starter Brad Penny allowed five runs — one earned — and eight hits over six innings. Phil Coke (3-9) threw a scoreless ninth for the win.
Ramirez doubled, singled, walked and scored a run. Alejandro De Aza doubled, reached base four times, scored two runs and stole a base for Chicago.
The 26-year-old Axelrod was starting in place of Jake Peavy, who was shut down for the remainder of the season. He appeared to be in line for the win until the ninth, when Leyland's parade of pinch-hitters pulled out another win.
"You're starting with a kid that just came from, what's the league, the independent league and he shut them down and all of a sudden these big league pitchers couldn't stop them," Ozzie Guillen said. "Look at yourself in the mirror and see how big league you are. If they're happy the season's over, good. But every time you lose a game like that and you have a little bit of pride, you should be ashamed of yourself."
The mood couldn't have been more different in the other clubhouse.
"We're having a good time," Raburn said. "We're having fun going out and playing, just trying to enjoy the moment and keep going on."
NOTES: The Tigers can clinch the AL Central during their four-game series at Oakland this weekend. In Thursday's opener, Detroit will send Max Scherzer to the mound to face Brandon McCarthy. Scherzer has allowed just two runs in 14 innings this month. ... The White Sox travel to Kansas City for a four-games series. On Thursday, Chicago's Mark Buehrle will square off against fellow lefty Jeff Francis. Buehrle has allowed 14 runs in nine innings over his last two starts.