CHICAGO -- Max Scherzer walked off the mound after eight innings Thursday night knowing two things: His pitch count was pretty good and he wasn't going to give up the ball to start the ninth.

Scherzer didn't even look at Detroit Tigers manager Brad Ausmus in the visitor's dugout at U.S. Cellular Field and headed straight back into the clubhouse to await the ninth inning against the Chicago White Sox.

When he emerged, he went to the mound and polished off the first complete game of his career in style with a 4-0 victory to salvage one win in the three-game series between the American League Central rivals.

"They knew I wanted the ball," Scherzer said of his coaching staff. "I just came right up into the clubhouse (after the eighth). I didn't say a word. If they would've said anything, I would've told them, 'I have the ball.'"

That's how confident the 2013 American League Cy Young winner was at that point, with all four of his pitches working effectively. Considering ace left-hander Chris Sale started for the White Sox (33-34), it was going to take an outing like Scherzer's to win.

He delivered exactly what the Tigers needed in just 113 pitches.

"It's awesome," said Scherzer, whose first complete game happened in his 179th major-league start. "I finally got the monkey off my back. I finally was able to go nine and finish the deal, so it's a great feeling."

Chicago had a chance to pull within 1 1/2 games of first-place Detroit (34-28) in the division standings after taking the first two games of the series, but Scherzer put a halt to that with his best outing of the season.

Matched up against Sale (5-1), the Detroit right-hander wiggled out of jams in the middle innings and got better as the game progressed. After stranding runners at second and third in the fourth inning, he retired 16 of the next 19 hitters he faced -- allowing three more runners the rest of the game.

"He was good," said White Sox second baseman Gordon Beckham, who got one of the three hits off Scherzer with a harmless double in the eighth. "He had good stuff. It is what it is, he just had our number. He kept his pitch count low and was able to go the whole game. It would have been nice to knock him out, but he was just too good tonight."

Scherzer (8-2) did allow three walks, but he struck out eight. He'd also allowed four or more earned runs in each of his previous four starts, but on Thursday regained his Cy Young form.

He started the ninth with only 99 pitches thrown, as many as Sale had after six, and needed just 113 total to finish off the win.

"His command was better, but he attacked the hitters," Ausmus said. "Even (right-hander Justin Verlander on Wednesday night), they attacked the hitters. That didn't work out (Wednesday) night for us, but that's important because these are dominating-type pitchers with the ability to dominate lineups.

"And if you're concerned about getting hit, you're on your heels and you're not attacking the hitters. Max definitely attacked the hitters tonight."

The Tigers gave Scherzer some run support, much of it late in the game. Designated hitter Victor Martinez opened the scoring with a fifth-inning solo homer. Detroit scored twice in the eighth and once in the ninth against White Sox relievers to give their ace some breathing room.

Sale was nearly as dominant in defeat, save for Martinez's home run. The White Sox ace went seven innings, allowing one run and five hits and striking out 10 -- twice striking out the side.

It was the 13th time in his career he posted double-digit strikeouts and the third time he struck out at least 10 without allowing a walk.

"It is what it is," Sale said. "I don't put too much emphasis on numbers and strikeouts and those kinds of things. It is what it is. Strike out 10? Great. I'd like to strike out none and get a win. I'm not a big numbers guy. Doesn't really matter."

NOTES: Tigers 1B Miguel Cabrera was back in the field after making two consecutive starts as the designated hitter because of tightness in his left hamstring. ... Detroit RHP Joel Hanrahan, recovering from Tommy John surgery in May 2013, experienced a setback in his recovery when he sustained a minor hamstring strain. ... Tigers RHP Bruce Rondon, who had Tommy John surgery in March, hasn't started baseball-related rehab activities. ... Detroit LF Andy Dirks continues making progress in his recovery from surgery on his lower back in March. Dirks is doing some baseball activities and is getting closer to taking live batting practice. The Tigers hope Dirks returns to action either in late June or early July. ... The White Sox acquired OF Matt Tuiasosopo from the Toronto Blue Jays for cash considerations. Tuiasosopo, 28, played last season for Detroit. He will report to Triple-A Charlotte.