DETROIT (AP)—Justin Verlander shut down the White Sox after the third inning, and the Detroit Tigers backed their ace with timely hitting in a 4-2 victory over Chicago on Friday night in the opener of a big three-game series.

Detroit inched closer to the top of the AL Central. The Tigers trail the first-place White Sox by a half-game. Detroit was six back after a loss to the Chicago Cubs on June 12.

Verlander (11-5) allowed four hits in eight innings, including a two-run homer in the third by Alejandro De Aza. He struck out six and walked two. Jose Valverde finished for his 18th save in 22 chances.

Jake Peavy (7-7) struck out the first five batters he faced and seven overall, but Detroit scored three runs in the third.

Peavy went seven innings, allowing four runs and eight hits — five during Detroit’s big third inning. Jhonny Peralta led off with a double but had to stay at second on Ramon Santiago’s single because the ball was nearly caught on the fly by right fielder Alex Rios.

Peavy almost worked out of the jam when Austin Jackson hit into a double play, but Quintin Berry was hit by a pitch, and Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder followed with consecutive RBI singles.

Delmon Young’s run-scoring double put the Tigers ahead 3-2.

Verlander cruised after that, allowing only one hit over his final five innings. Jackson hit an RBI single with two outs in the seventh for another Detroit run.

Verlander struck out Alexei Ramirez to start the eighth, then broke Gordon Beckham’s bat with a 100-mph fastball. Beckham was left holding the sawed-off handle after a foul ball. He popped out on the next pitch.

After De Aza grounded out to first for the third out, Verlander — who had covered first on the play — walked slowly back to the dugout while the sellout crowd gave him a standing ovation. He threw 121 pitches.

Verlander has pitched at least six innings in each of his last 62 regular-season starts.

Chicago’s Kevin Youkilis came back after missing Thursday night’s loss at Boston with a tight left hamstring. He struck out three times against Verlander and flied out against Valverde.

Valverde, who has been erratic this year, managed a 1-2-3 ninth, capped by Berry’s diving catch in left field.

NOTES: Chris Sale (11-2) takes the mound for the White Sox on Saturday against Detroit’s Rick Porcello (6-5). … Chicago manager Robin Ventura said he hopes RHP Gavin Floyd (right elbow tendinitis) will be able to pitch Monday, but he wants to see how the pitcher feels Saturday. … The White Sox are 13-13 against the Tigers in games started by Verlander, but 1-11 in the last 12.

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