DETROIT (AP) -- Justin Verlander maintained his form on the mound and Gary Sheffield seemed to regain his at the plate.
For AL MVP candidate Magglio Ordonez, it was just another day at the ballpark.
Ordonez hit a three-run home run, Sheffield had a two-run homer and Verlander allowed only a run to lead the Detroit Tigers over the Texas Rangers 5-1 Wednesday night.
The Tigers have won seven of nine to stay in the playoff race, trailing AL wild-card leader New York by four games and the Cleveland Indians by 5 1/2 in the Central Division.
"I don't want to mislead anybody like some school kid trying to be overly optimistic, but we've got a shot," manager Jim Leyland said. "But obviously, we need some help now.
"The main thing is, we've got to win our games because there is not much margin for error, and obviously those two teams have a little bit more."
After an off day, the Tigers begin a key road trip with three games against Minnesota and the final three games of the season series against the Indians.
"From now on, every series is important," Ordonez said. "Everybody knows we're a few games behind both teams, but we just have to keep winning ballgames and hopefully they lose some."
Verlander (17-5) became the first Detroit pitcher to win at least 17 games in consecutive seasons since Jack Morris in 1986-87. The reigning AL Rookie of the Year -- who was 17-9 last season -- gave up seven hits, a walk and struck out seven.
"It's definitely special to have my name mixed in with his," Verlander said. "But we're in a playoff race right now, so I can't think about personal accolades."
Verlander has won four straight starts, combining to allow just three runs.
"I'd only faced him once before, and that was as a pinch hitter, but he's everything they say he is," Jarrod Saltalamacchia said. "He's tough. Pudge (Ivan Rodriguez) had him on the right page, and he was hitting all his spots. Those two are an awfully tough combination for any hitter."
Todd Jones pitched in the ninth, striking out all three batters he faced for the first time since Aug. 19, 2005.
Edinson Volquez (2-1) gave up five runs, seven hits and four walks while striking out a career-high six. He made his third start of the season and the 14th of his career.
"I thought he handled himself very well against one of the best lineups in the game," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "This is a good experience for him, and he kept his cool."
Texas has dropped two straight after winning 13 of 15.
A day after snapping an 0-for-25 skid, Sheffield's two-run homer in the first inning ended a 16-game homerless drought.
"It feels good to let the swing go," said Sheffield, who finished 2-for-3. "I didn't have any rehab assignments to get at-bats in, and this is not easy to do when you are healthy."
Ordonez's three-run shot put Detroit ahead 5-1 in the sixth, giving him 132 RBIs for the season -- the most since Cecil Fielder had 133 in 1991. The outfielder is three RBIs away from his career high and nine away from being the first Tiger to drive in more than 140 runs since Hank Greenberg in 1940.
The Rangers put two on with no outs in the fourth and two on with one out in the sixth, and came away with only a run.
Young doubled in the sixth and scored on David Murphy's single to make it 2-1.
It didn't stay close for long.
In the home half, Placido Polanco and Sheffield led off with walks and Ordonez followed with a 393-foot liner over the left-center wall to give Detroit a four-run cushion.
Volquez said Ordonez and Sheffield taught him a lesson.
"I learned to stay away from those two guys," he said.
The Tigers have three players (Curtis Granderson, Ordonez and Sheffield) with at least 100 runs for the first time since 1961, when Al Kaline, Norm Cash and Rocky Colavito surpassed the mark. ... Morris won 21 games in 1986 and 18 the next year. ... Young was 2-for-3 and extended his hitting streak to 12 games, matching the longest for the team this year. ... RHP Scott Feldman returned to Texas to have his right knee examined. ... Texas recalled RHP Armando Galarraga from Triple-A Oklahoma. ... Detroit won the season series 5-4. ... Murphy was 3-for-4, and is hitting .408 over the last 27 games.