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Detroit — The Tigers played 18 innings of baseball Monday and managed to produce hits in four of them, runs in only one.

Thus, they were swept in a doubleheader by the White Sox — losing 2-0 and mustering one bloop single against Jeff Samardzija in the first game, and dropping the second game, 3-2.

"Just not being able to do much; I don't know how you would be able to explain it," said Alex Avila, whose fourth homer of the season accounted for one of the runs. "Sometimes we've been able to put up a lot of runs this year and sometimes we haven't. It's kind of frustrating that you can't be consistent.

"A little credit goes to the pitcher and at the same time, there's some blame on us to put up some better at-bats."

BOX SCORE: White Sox 3, Tigers 2

The Tigers have now been limited to two runs or fewer 58 times this season, third most in the major leagues.

"You just keep grinding," Avila said. "There's still a lot to play for, even if there isn't any playoff implications. It's definitely a different situation for me and for most of the guys in here, but there is still a lot to play for.

"Some guys are playing for time next year and some still want to show something, not only to this organization but other organizations who are watching for other opportunities."

The nightcap featured a pitching duel between the two best pitchers in the International League. The White Sox's Erik Johnson and Tigers' Randy Wolf were one-two, respectively, in the IL in ERA this season.

And Johnson's stuff played just a tad better at the big league level on this night.

"He was working up (in the strike zone) and getting us to chase," said Andrew Romine. "Any time a pitcher can do that, they are most times going to be successful."

The Tigers scored both their runs off Johnson in the third inning, after the White Sox had jumped ahead 3-0.

Avila smacked a fastball into the White Sox bullpen in left-center to start the inning. Then a sacrifice fly by Ian Kinsler plated Romine, who singled and went to third on Rajai Davis' single.

The Tigers threatened to tie it up in the fourth, but Josh Wilson, getting the start at second base while Kinsler DH'd, struck out with the bases loaded.

The Tigers didn't make much noise after that. Reliever Nate Jones pitched a clean eighth inning and closer David Robertson struck out James McCann and pinch-hitter Victor Martinez to end the game.

The anemic offense wasted a crafty seven-inning effort by Wolf.

"I wasn't great, but I felt I was pretty good," said Wolf, who had been tagged for 14 runs in 11 innings in his three previous starts. "The first four hits, I was thinking it would be nice to just get a single in there — the first four were all extra base hits. That's frustrating.

"But I felt good and if I could hold them there we'd have a chance."

He needed 50 pitches to get through the first inning of his previous start against the Indians and was done after three innings. On Monday, he got through the first in eight pitches.

"My past two outings, this one and the one in Cleveland, I was throwing harder and this start I had a little more life on the ball," Wolf said. "I kind of quickened my delivery, something I've worked on between starts and I feel like my arm is a little more lively."

He gave up two runs in the second — a triple by Trayce Thompson, sacrifice fly by Avisail Garcia and a homer by Gordon Beckham; and one in the third — a triple by Tyler Saladino and double by Jose Abreu.

He shut it down after that, allowing only one other hit through the seventh.

His strikeout of Abreu to end the fifth was a clinic in effective pitch sequencing.

After Abreu whacked a 2-1 change-up for a double in the third, Wolf threw three straight 88-mph fastballs and got ahead 1-2. He threw a 66-mph curveball in the dirt, nearly got another 88-mph pitch by Abreu and then got him way out front on a 69-mph curve.

"His first two at-bats I threw him a lot of off-speed, sliders, curves — but I felt like those two at-bats were set up with a lot of off-speed pitches," he said. "And he ended up hitting a change-up. It wasn't a great change-up, but it wasn't awful, and he had a really good swing on it."

He said he and catcher Avila didn't even have to discuss what to do in Abreu's third at-bat.

"We needed to go fastball in," Wolf said. "If he was able to cover the change-up, especially on 2-1, I felt like I needed to establish the fastball early."

And when he came back to the slow curve, he had Abreu swinging off his front foot.

It may have been a little victory in the grand scheme of things Monday, but little victories are all that are left for the Tigers this season.

chris.mccosky@detroitnews.com

twitter.com/cmccosky

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