DETROIT -- The Tigers had a little champagne celebration Friday night -- for Max Scherzer.
Scherzer became baseball's first 20-game winner with help from Torii Hunter's four hits and three RBI in a 12-5 victory over the Chicago White Sox that cut Detroit's magic division-title clinching number to three.
Second-place Cleveland staved off elimination while strengthening its wild-card bid by beating Houston 2-1 in a rain-shortened game.
"We had a little toast for Max," Hunter said. "You win 20 games you think of the elite. And Max is up there. It's one of the hardest things to do in baseball. Everything has to fall in place."
"Early on he wasn't as sharp as he has been," Chicago manager Robin Ventura said. "But then he did what he usually does, he settled in. His off-speed stuff got better and he went to it more."
"That 20-win stuff is great," Scherzer (20-3) said, "but we can see the playoffs in sight. I'll appreciate it more after the season.
"It's a beautiful thing about this team, you don't have personal stuff on your mind. Nobody in here cares about personal stuff. We just want to win.
"When I go out there, I think about going deep into the game, giving my team a chance to win. It would be naive of me to take credit for winning 20 games. Those other guys are the ones out there playing defense. They're the ones doing the hitting."
"He was in here acting like a kid in a candy store," Hunter said. "He was doing back-flips and everything."
Scherzer, making his fifth start in search of his 20th win, battled a constant light rain through his six innings of work, during which he gave up three runs on six hits plus a walk. He struck out three and saw his ERA rise a tick to 3.00.
Detroit broke the game open with a five-run fifth as Prince Fielder hit a two-run single, Victor Martinez followed with a two-run home run and Omar Infante added an RBI triple in the Tigers' 18-hit attack.
Jeff Keppinger pinch-hit an RBI double and Avisail Garcia hit an RBI triple as Chicago got two in the eighth. Garcia reached Scherzer for a two-run home run to left, his fifth, in the fourth.
Right-hander Dylan Alexrod (4-10) subbed for injured Chicago scheduled starter Andre Rienzo, who had a blister on his pitching hand, and was cuffed around for 10 hits, nine of them singles, in 2 2/3 innings. He was staked to a 1-0 lead in the first but a bases-loaded two-run ground single up the middle by Andy Dirks in the bottom half gave Detroit the lead for good.
"It started off good for us," Ventura said, "we got a run in the first. But then they started swinging their bats the way they can. They make it difficult for you if you're not sharp."
Alejandro De Aza doubled off Scherzer to open the game, took third on a wild pitch and scored on Conor Gillaspie's sacrifice fly to deep center as a light rain fell.
Jackson singled and Hunter doubled him home in the second to make it 3-1 and the Tigers erupted for four in the third during the continuing drizzle. Alex Avila singled in a run, Hunter singled in two and Miguel Cabrera added an RBI single to hike the lead to 7-1.
NOTES: Chicago's Rienzo was scratched from his scheduled start due to a blister on the ring finger of his right hand. ... Detroit SS Jose Iglesias was held out of action Friday after getting hit by a mid-90s fastball on the top of his left hand. The hand is sore enough that Iglesias may not start Saturday either. ... The White Sox's Garcia returned to the lineup after missing four games to attend the birth of his daughter. Teammate LF Dayan Viciedo, however, left to attend his child's birth. ... RHP Bruce Rondon of the Tigers took another step toward returning to game action Friday, throwing a short bullpen session. He has not pitched since Sept. 2 due to a sore right elbow. ... Detroit's paid attendance of 39,643 left the Tigers 124 patrons shy of drawing 3,000,000 for the second year in a row and fourth time since 2007.