DETROIT -- Miguel Cabrera drove in four runs, then left the game in the top of the seventh.
Andy Dirks didn't play until the sixth -- and still had time to drive in four of his own.
It was that kind of night for the Detroit Tigers, who finished a three-game sweep of the Chicago White Sox in an emphatic fashion. Detroit routed Chicago 18-2 on Sunday night, scoring so often starting pitcher Max Scherzer had to throw in a batting cage to stay loose while he waited to return to the mound.
"Craziest game I've ever been a part of as a professional -- just watching all the hits keep piling up and runs keep piling up," Scherzer said. "Obviously, I love it. Obviously, if I have to keep going back into the hitting cage and keep throwing balls and keep warming up, I guess that's a good thing."
Scherzer (14-8) allowed five hits over seven scoreless innings, and Alex Avila had a career-high four hits for Detroit, which leads the AL Central by 6 1/2 games heading into a three-game series at second-place Cleveland. Chicago is 8 1/2 back.
Mark Buehrle (11-7) allowed seven earned runs in 3 1/3 innings.
The Tigers trailed 8-1 in the fifth Saturday before rallying to win 9-8. They scored 26 consecutive runs and led 18-0 Sunday when the White Sox finally scored two in the ninth, bringing some sarcastic boos from the crowd.
It was the second-biggest blowout in the major leagues this season, according to STATS, LLC. Cleveland beat Kansas City 19-1 on May 16. The Tigers had 24 hits, their most at Comerica Park since it opened in 2000.
"It's almost a little surreal at times when you're scoring that many runs," Dirks said. "At the same time, it's just one game. It doesn't matter if you win by two or you win by 20."
Detroit's magic number is 18 to clinch its first division title since 1987. The Tigers last made the playoffs in 2006, reaching the World Series as a wild card.
Cabrera's two-run homer into the bushes behind the center-field wall highlighted a seven-run sixth inning, and Dirks added a two-run shot in the eighth to make it 18-0. Soon after that, fireworks began going off in the distance beyond right field. They were unrelated to the game but felt appropriate after the show Detroit's offense put on. The Tigers scored 35 runs in three games against Chicago.
"We needed to come here and make a statement. We had to win two of three, if not sweep them, and that's the furthest thing from what actually happened," Buehrle said. "We're not mathematically eliminated, but a smart man isn't going to like our chances right now. We're not going to give up, but we're in big trouble."
Although Justin Verlander is making a bid for the Cy Young Award, the depth of Detroit's rotation has been an issue. Scherzer allowed seven runs in three innings against Kansas City on Monday, but he was much sharper against Chicago, striking out the side in the third and facing the minimum 12 hitters through the first four innings.
Not that Detroit needed a dominant pitching performance.
Austin Jackson led off with a double in the bottom of the first and eventually scored on Victor Martinez's single. The Tigers scored three runs in the third. Martinez and Avila hit RBI singles, and when Jhonny Peralta hit a grounder to short for a potential inning-ending double play, second baseman Gordon Beckham's throw to first skipped away for an error, allowing Martinez to score.
The White Sox compounded their poor pitching by making three errors on the night.
Delmon Young made it 5-0 with an RBI single in the fourth, and Cabrera's double to left-center brought home two more runs and ended Buehrle's night. It was his shortest outing since June 6, 2010, when he pitched three innings against the Indians.
Reliever Addison Reed, making his major league debut, allowed RBI singles by Avila and Peralta later in the fourth to make it 9-0.
With the game out of hand, both teams began substituting liberally, although White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen -- trying to save pitchers for a doubleheader at Minnesota on Monday -- left right-hander Shane Lindsay out on the mound for the entire sixth inning. Lindsay, whose mother managed to travel from Australia on short notice to see her son's major league debut Friday night, allowed seven runs and eight hits in his only inning of work Sunday.
Peralta hit a two-run double, Brandon Inge added an RBI single, Dirks hit a two-run single as a pinch-hitter, and Cabrera made it 16-0 with a towering, 425-foot homer, his 26th of the year.
Guillen went about halfway to second base in the second inning after Alex Rios was called out stealing, apparently ready to argue the call. Then he seemed to change his mind and went back to the dugout. ... Both teams face quick turnarounds for day games Monday. Detroit is at Cleveland, and Chicago plays its doubleheader at Minnesota. ... Doug Fister (6-13) will pitch for Detroit against Cleveland's Ubaldo Jimenez (2-1). ... The White Sox will send Philip Humber (8-8) and Zach Stewart (1-2) to the mound against Minnesota's Anthony Swarzak (3-5) and Scott Diamond (1-2).