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Edwin Jackson goes distance as White Sox beat Tigers 5-0

Carlos Quentreceives congratulations after his home run second inning Saturday. | Carlos Osorio~AP

Carlos Quentin receives congratulations after his home run in the second inning Saturday. | Carlos Osorio~AP

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Updated: October 29, 2011 12:35AM

DETROIT — The White Sox are exercising caution when it comes to understanding the meaning of all this.

Two wins out of the gate after the All-Star break against the Detroit Tigers. Against Justin Verlander and 10-game winner Max Scherzer, no less. Does this mean the slacker Sox are a thing of the past?

“It’s not how you finish; it’s how you start,’’ said right-hander Edwin Jackson, who pitched his third career shutout Saturday in the Sox’ 5-0 victory against the Tigers. “If we continue to play like we have the last two days, it could be something special here.’’

Philip Humber, the team’s best starter in the first half, takes the mound today against Brad Penny as the Sox go for a difficult sweep that potentially could launch an underachieving team into a streak they need to feel like real, live contenders in the American League Central.

“That momentum can snowball,’’ said Gordon Beckham, whose two-hit day gave him four hits and three RBI in the first two games of the series. “It’s just two games, but it’s a good start. We were 2-7 against these guys, not very good. It’s good to know that we can compete with them and take some wins away from their best [pitchers].’’

Like many of his teammates, Beckham was in a personal rut offensively for much of the first half. But he’s 17-for-43 in his last 13 games and is on a seven-game hitting streak that has hiked his average to .252.

“We have to stay loose,’’ Beckham said. “In the first half, we got caught up in how the game didn’t go our way. The last couple of games have been fun, loose. You have to play this game loose. If you get tight, it’s not going to work out.’’

The Sox have shown flashes like this before, only to relapse. So while the buzz around the clubhouse is real, everybody knows where they stand — which is three games behind the second-place Tigers and four behind the Cleveland Indians.

“I don’t believe [we’re the team to beat] yet,’’ manager Ozzie Guillen said. “We’re still there. They’re still there. So is Cleveland, watch out for Minnesota. It’s not just because we win these two games, ‘There we go. We’re going to win it.’ They got a great club out there, a great ballclub. They know how to play the game. We just played better the last two games.’’

The Sox haven’t won more than four games in a row. When they did, they followed it with six losses in the eight games leading to the All-Star break.

“Every time we get excited, we lose two, three in a row, then we come back and win two,’’ Guillen said. “That happens in the AL Central, though. Maybe Cleveland stayed hot more than everybody else does, but everybody else is up and down, up and down. It will be an interesting race. I don’t think anybody will pull away and win that thing easy.’’

Winning is easy when the starter keeps the ball down and gets 18 ground-ball outs as Jackson (6-7) did. He scattered nine hits and got through nine innings against the aggressive Tigers with 101 pitches, an economical amount for Jackson.

“Just trying to attack hitters,’’ Jackson said. “A pretty aggressive team, a team you can’t afford to fall behind in the count to. They have a lot of great hitters, and anybody 1 through 9 can take you deep. They have some bangers out here.’’

Carlos Quentin did the banging for the Sox with his 18th homer, and leadoff man Juan Pierre hiked his average to .275 with four hits, including a double. Quentin has back-to-back three-hit games for the first time in his career. He hit his first homer since June 8.

Pierre stole two bases to help the Sox get a season-high four steals. RBI by Beckham, Morel and Pierre against closer Jose Valverde in the ninth put it away.

Two baserunning glitches cost the Sox a run in the fifth and one in the seventh, although the Sox were the victims of a questionable call by third-base umpire Bruce Dreckman on the latter. Dreckman ruled that Beckham left third too soon when tagging up on Pierre’s short fly to right, but the replay showed he didn’t.

In the end, it didn’t matter, despite the ongoing struggles of Adam Dunn (.159) and Alex Rios (.207), who each went 0-for-4.

“It’s not about two, three guys; it’s about 25 guys,’’ Guillen said. “Everyone has to contribute because that’s the only way you’re going to win games.’’

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