DETROIT -- Ty Cobb would've been proud.
Marcus Thames' hard takeout slide broke up a potential, inning-ending double play in the seventh and Chris Shelton followed with a go-ahead double to give the Detroit Tigers a 2-1 win over the Chicago White Sox on Thursday.
A sellout crowd of 41,075 at Comerica Park, which has a statue of Cobb sliding beyond the left-field wall, was on its feet as right fielder Magglio Ordonez ran down Brian Anderson's fly ball at the warning track for the final out.
The victory gave the Tigers a season-high 5½-game lead over Chicago in the AL Central.
"We gained a game, and it's July 20. That's all it means," Detroit manager Jim Leyland insisted. "We've got Oakland coming in, and the A's are champing at the bit."
Detroit has the best record in baseball at 64-31 after taking two of three from the World Series champions -- after losing six of their first seven meetings this season. Chicago has lost seven of nine, falling into a tie with AL East leader Boston for the second-best record in baseball.
"You go through down points in a season, and this is one of the lowest," Chicago starter Jose Contreras said through an interpreter.
An old-fashioned play by Thames tilted the game to the Tigers.
"Marcus Thames' good, clean, hard slide was the difference," Leyland said.
With one out in the seventh, Craig Monroe hit a grounder to third baseman Joe Crede, who threw to second baseman Tadahito Iguchi. Thames slid cleanly, taking out Iguchi and preventing a relay.
"You always want to break up a double play -- I learned that in Little League," Thames said. "It's only a dirty play if you can't touch the bag, or you try to get the guy with your spikes."
Iguchi got up slowly and limped around the infield, but he put a hand up to let White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen know he was OK. After Thames got high-fives in Detroit's dugout, Shelton hit a double to left-center that scored Monroe.
Guillen didn't have a problem with Thames' slide.
"I want my players to do the same stuff," Guillen said. "I don't want anyone to get hurt, but I applaud him. That's the way to play the game at the big league level."
Kenny Rogers allowed only one run and six hits over six innings.
"Facing a guy like Contreras, if he gives up four runs we lose," Leyland said.
Rookie Joel Zumaya (5-1) gave up one hit in the seventh and eighth -- throwing between 84-102 mph.
"Amazing," Guillen said. "That kid has a great future."
Todd Jones pitched the ninth for his 25th save in 28 opportunities.
Contreras (9-2) was solid -- giving up two runs, six hits and a walk over seven innings -- but lost his second start in a row. In his previous outing at Yankee Stadium, his team-record 17-game winning streak ended.
Chicago took a 1-0 lead in the fourth, and could've gotten more. The White Sox loaded the bases with one out on two walks and a bloop single, and Crede's single broke the scoreless tie. Rogers got out of the jam with a popup and flyout.
"We had Rogers on the ropes a couple times early, and we didn't get him," White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko said. "Then, they got some hits."
Contreras gave up just three hits over the first five innings and retired nine straight before the Tigers did enough to scratch out a run.
Curtis Granderson turned a bloop into a double with his speed in the sixth and scored on Ivan Rodriguez's two-out single, which extended his hitting streak to a season-high 11 games.
Leyland downplayed the significance of the series, but couldn't contain his excitement about regularly seeing sellout crowds in a city that was pushed into apathy by a team without a winning record since 1993.
"I've never seen these kind of crowds during the regular season," said Leyland, who managed Pittsburgh, Florida and Colorado before coming to Detroit last fall.
- Monroe limped to the dugout with a hamstring injury after scoring the go-ahead run and was replaced in the outfield by Alexis Gomez. Leyland said Monroe could be out a couple of days.
- Detroit DH Dmitri Young, who has been on the DL since May 22 with a leg strain and personal issues, could be activated as soon as Friday when the Tigers host Oakland. Young's rehabilitation assignment in the minors could extend into next week, but Leyland said "it won't run it's full course." After the game, Leyland would not rule out Young's return Friday, but said a move had not yet been made to bring him back to the team.
- Chicago's first four hitters were 0-for-29 in the last two losses at Detroit.
- Anderson matched a career high with three hits and extended his hitting streak to a career-high nine games.
- Actor Tom Hanks and director Ron Howard attended the game. Hanks, a star of The Da Vinci Code that Howard directed, decided to visit some ballparks as a 50th birthday present to himself.