White Sox fall to Tigers 6-1 after benches clear
DETROIT (AP) — The final inning of Chris Sale’s stellar season was certainly an eventful one.
Sale hit Victor Martinez with a pitch in the sixth, and the benches and bullpens briefly emptied. Then the Detroit Tigers broke up the Chicago ace’s shutout and went on to beat the White Sox 6-1.
The White Sox led 1-0 with one out in the sixth when Sale’s first pitch to Martinez hit the Detroit slugger around the back of his left shoulder. Martinez walked slowly to first, and although the benches and bullpens briefly emptied, the situation didn’t escalate.
“Obviously, we knew his numbers against myself, and I was just trying to pitch him inside, and one got away,” Sale said. “After that, tempers flared — we’re just a bunch of big kids out there playing baseball, and we get emotional. That’s all it was.”
The Tigers had a different explanation.
“They were claiming that someone with binoculars in center field was giving signs to Victor,” Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. “I think it’s a little weak that they would hit him. If they injure Victor there and we’re in the playoff hunt, that’s bad news. That just can’t happen.
“He clearly did it on purpose. He made it obvious.”
Sale didn’t accuse the Tigers of stealing signs afterward. He did appear to point toward center field after hitting Martinez, but he said he wasn’t specifically gesturing toward there.
“I was just throwing my arms up, like you do when you are upset,” the left-hander said. “I wasn’t really trying to control where they pointed.”
Sale appeared to tip his hat toward the outfield in the third inning after striking out Martinez.
“There was a fan that was just wearing me out in the bullpen before the game, telling me that I wasn’t any good, and telling me how much Victor was going to hit me,” Sale said. “So that was just having some fun with him.”
Justin Verlander (15-12) allowed a run in eight innings for Detroit.
Sale allowed a run and four hits in six innings in his last start of the season. He struck out 10 and walked three, becoming his franchise’s career leader with his 18th game of at least 10 strikeouts. Ed Walsh had 17.
But Chicago’s slim lead slipped away after he hit Martinez.
“I think he just woke the whole team up,” said Martinez, who is 15 of 29 for his career off Sale.
J.D. Martinez followed with a double and Nick Castellanos hit a sacrifice fly to tie it at 1.
Ian Kinsler’s RBI double the following inning off Javy Guerra (2-4) put Detroit ahead, and when Kinsler reached second, he put his hands up in front of his eyes, pantomiming someone looking through binoculars.
Miguel Cabrera added a sacrifice fly in the seventh. Detroit scored three runs in the eighth on a well-executed squeeze play by Andrew Romine and RBI singles by Rajai Davis and Kinsler.
Cabrera struck out four times, only the third time in his career that’s happened and the first time since Sept. 17, 2010.
AMONG THE LEADERS
Sale finishes with a 2.17 ERA, which will almost surely be good enough to win the American League ERA title. Seattle’s Felix Hernandez is at 2.34.
The brouhaha involving Sale and Martinez overshadowed another fine outing by Verlander, who allowed seven hits and struck out six.
Verlander has not been at his best this year, but the former Cy Young Award winner has made it to the eighth inning in back-to-back starts.
“He threw really well today,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “As good as Chris was, he was matching him the whole way, and even when we got him into some tough situations, he got himself back out of them. He can still pitch.”
White Sox: After the bench-clearing incident, Sale pitched the rest of the sixth before being pulled after 101 pitches. Ventura was already trying to ease the left-hander into the offseason. Sale finishes the year at 174 innings after missing a month early on with a muscle strain near his left elbow.
Tigers: Detroit RHP Anibal Sanchez (pectoral strain) still has not pitched since being activated from the disabled list before Tuesday’s game. He’s now part of the Tigers’ bullpen but was not used Wednesday.
White Sox: After losing two of three to the Tigers, Chicago has another chance to play spoiler in a four-game series against the Royals. White Sox LHP Jose Quintana (9-10) faces Kansas City RHP James Shields (14-8) on Thursday night.
Tigers: Detroit hosts four games against Minnesota. Tigers RHP Max Scherzer (17-5) takes the mound against Twins RHP Trevor May (3-5) on Thursday night.