After scoring three insurance runs, the Chicago White Sox entered the bottom of the ninth holding a what they thought was a secure 6-0 lead. One ridiculous comeback and three innings later, the Detroit Tigers walked off 7-6 victors on Omar Infante's bases-loaded infield single. The wild win lowered the Tigers' Magic Number to two.
Unfortunately for the Tigers, they are still battling injury issues. Miguel Cabrera was pulled from the game in the tenth with what is being termed "groin soreness." Despite the Tigers reporting Cabrera was day-to-day, post-game manager Jim Leyland did not sound like someone who expected his slugger to play again soon.
"I'm not exactly sure. But I don't think it's too good."
When asked about his injury, Cabrera didn't come off nearly as worried.
"I was feeling good today. The last couple of innings, (it was) getting sore."
Chris Sale continued his recent mastery over the Detroit Tigers, pitching a dominant 7 2/3 shutout innings, giving up just four hits. With Sale in line for the victory, set up man Nate Jones and closer Addison Reed blew up in the worst way possible. They combined to allow six runs in the bottom of the ninth, the Tigers sending the game into extras. The win pulled out from under him, Sale was stuck with his fifth no-decision of the season.
The loss would go to the fifth White Sox pitcher of the evening, Jake Petricka. The rookie right-hander walked the bases loaded in the 12th before giving up Infante's game winner.
Tigers' starter Rick Porcello went pitch-for-pitch with Sale through six innings. But he allowed a pair of two-out runs in the seventh, which was more than enough run support for Sale. The Tigers' number-five starter allowed two runs on six hits, striking out nine over 6 2/3 innings. Getting no help from the offense until he was long out of the game, Porcello ultimately earned a no-decision.
The sixth Tigers' pitcher was Al Alburquerque. The mercurial Alburquerque was excellent in earning the win, shutting out the White Sox over the final two innings.
The Tigers ended up with 11 hits, seven after Sale was pulled, five coming during the ninth-inning rally. Andy Dirks had the big hit of the night, a pinch-hit, three-run homer in the ninth. Miguel Cabrera led the Tigers with three hits, adding an RBI. Victor Martinez and Infante both contributed a pair of hits and an RBI.
The White Sox actually outhit the Tigers 12-11. Bryan Anderson, Jeff Keppinger, Gordon Beckham and Marcus Semien all chipped in with RBI doubles. Ex-Tiger Avisail Garcia added two hits.
Sale pitching deep into the game against the Tigers is nothing new. In four previous starts this season, Sale had gone less than eight innings just once, and in that game he pitched into the seventh. Sale's ERA in his five starts versus Detroit is a sterling 1.83.
Not helping matters was the Tigers appearing to sleep-walk through much of the night. Then again, an elite pitcher can do that to a team. Thankfully, the Tigers' bats woke up just in time, though it's not a coincidence the game seemed to turn on a dime after Sale was pulled.
The Tigers scored the final seven runs of the game, including six in a completely unexpected game-tying ninth-inning rally, helped by the White Sox's bullpen meltdown. As much as you may be tempted to write off the Tigers when they are down late in games, time and time again, they have proven they are never to be counted out.
This 7-6 win over the White Sox was one of the more extreme examples.
The White Sox went with a Triple-A lineup tonight, but still scratched together a scoring opportunity against Rick Porcello in the opening inning.
Leury Garcia led off with a single, stealing second as the unfortunately named Marcus Semien struck out. Second base was as far as Garcia would advance, Procello stranding him on Conor Gillaspie's sailing liner to left (which Matt Tuiasosopo almost played into an extra base hit) and a Paul Konerko 5-3 ground out.
Bottom half of the inning, Miguel Cabrera had a two-out single off White Sox ace Chris Sale. But Sale made Prince Fielder look silly in a three-pitch strikeout, ending the first.
Bottom of two and the game scoreless, Victor Martinez led off with a double into the left-field corner. Sale being the best left-hander in the AL, he did what good pitchers do -- pitch the hell out of trouble.
Sale left Tuiasosopo dumbfounded, striking him out on three pitches. Omar Infante hit a fly to center for out number two. Martinez was able to advance to third on a wild pitch, but was stranded on Ramon Santiago's soft liner to short.
The game was showing all the signs of a low-scoring pitchers' duel. No signs were needed. The pitchers' duel was on.
The third inning was more of the same. Both Porcello and Sale set the side down in order. Torii Hunter did make a bid with two down, but his fly ball died a valiant death, caught in front of the scoreboard in deep right center.
Two down in the fourth, the White Sox didn't hit the ball out of the infield, but manged to put a runner in scoring position with help from shaky Tigers' defense. Playing shortstop in place of Jose Iglesias, Santiago was able to get to Konerko's ground ball into the hole. Fielder should have been able to handle the short hop, but muffed the throw, Konerko credited with a base hit.
Porcello shattered the bat of ex-Tiger Avisail Garcia, resulting in a lazy one-hopper to Infante. For some reason, Infante thought it would be a good idea to try and make a bare-hand play, nonchalantly at that. The ball spun off his hand and every one was safe. Garcia was given a gift single as the inning was extended a second time.
Porcello took matters out of the hands of his defense and into his own, striking out Jordan Danks to end the threat. Porcello's K pitch was working, Danks his sixth strikeout on the night.
Bottom of the fourth, Cabrera led off with a liner which rolled past Garcia to the right-field wall. But a still-hobbled Cabrera tried to jog on Garcia's arm. He failed miserably, an easy out at second. Sale wrapped up the inning by retiring Fielder and Martinez.
Less than one hour in, the Tigers and White Sox were already headed to the fifth, the game still scoreless.
Ten minutes later, the Tigers and White Sox were starting the sixth, still knotted at 0-0. Porcello had allowed three hits, his pitch count at 65. Sale had allowed three hits as well, and was in even better shape at 54 pitches.
Hunter helped Porcello out in the top of the sixth, flashing glove leather like we saw during all those years with the Twins. He made a running catch on Semien's sinking line drive, picking it just off the turf for the second out. Porcello then recorded his eighth K of the night, Gillaspie going down swinging.
Hunter again hit the ball hard in the bottom of the sixth, but his line shot was right at Danks. The game rolled into the seventh, the score still zip to zip.
Porcello had retired eight straight before Garcia bounced a single to center with one out in the seventh. As Danks was going down swinging for a third time, Garcia stole second, just under Brayan Pena's throw.
With one swing of .246/.274/.307 hitting Jeff Keppinger's bat, the White Sox took a 1-0 lead. Two down and the count 1-1, Keppinger drilled a hanging breaking ball into the left-center-field gap, Garcia scoring on the RBI double. Porcello's pitch count having crossed 100, Gordon Beckham lined a single to right, Keppinger crossing the plate to make it a 2-0 game.
Just like that, Porcello's night was over.
Jim Leyland made the call for Jose Veras out of the bullpen, replacing a very good Porcello. White Sox catcher Bryan Anderson looked as if his bloop to short left would drop for base hit and extend the inning even further, but Tuiasosopo completely laid out to make a highlight reel grab, ending the threat (MLB.com video).
Unfortunately, the way Sale was pitching, a two-run lead may just have just as well have been 200. Porcello deserved better, but his running out of gas as he nears the 100-pitch mark is nothing new either.
Sale did what great pitchers do, throwing a shutdown inning after being given a lead. In this case it was even more impressive, setting down, Cabrera, Fielder, and Martinez in order.
With the Indians already having won, any chance the Tigers had of clinching the division at home tomorrow was quickly closing.
The defense the Tigers were playing would ensure they would have clinch on the road. Top of eight, Semien was safe when Santiago bounced another throw to first, this time charged a an error. Gillaspie followed with a chopper to the right side, the ball glancing off Fielder's glove, but directly to Infante. Veras was covering first, arriving in plenty of time, but Infante's awful defensive game continued when his throw was several feet behind Veras. Gillaspie was safe at first, Semien raced all the way to third.
Konerko made the Tigers pay for their extremely sloppy play, singling home Semien to put the White Sox up 3-0.
Jeremy Bonderman made his first appearance since September 4 and only second since late August, replacing Veras. Bondo needed just one pitch to get out trouble, Garcia bouncing into an inning ending 6-4-3 double play.
But Sale with a three-run lead? May as well been a million. The Tigers were not going to come back on the White Sox's ace. Good thing for the Tigers that Sale wouldn't get through the eighth inning.
The Tigers weren't going down without a fight. Bottom of the eighth and one out, Infante singled, only the fourth Tigers' hit of the night. After walking the light-hitting Santiago, a visibly agitated Sale received a visit from Pale Hose pitching coach Don Cooper.
Sale settled down to strike out Pena. Two down and two on, Robin Ventura took the opportunity to make a pitching change. Right-hander Nate Jones entered the game to face Hunter. There would be no eighth-inning dramatics. Hunter bounced to second, inning over.
Bonderman remained on the mound to start the ninth, allowing back-to-back singles to Danks and Keppinger. The sloppy play continued, both runners moving into scoring position on Pena's passed ball.
Still no one out, the Tigers were forced to bring the infield in with Beckham at the plate. Bonderman got the strikeout of Beckham.
Then the dam broke.
Anderson, who entered the game without a hit since being called up, doubled to deep left center, two runs scoring to give the White Sox a 5-0 lead. With two out, Semien dropped an RBI ground rule double in the right-field corner, the White Sox increasing their lead to 6-0.
Darin Downs, making his first appearance since July 6, answered the bullpen phone. The long-lost lefty recorded the third out, Gillaspie flying out to left.
Down six runs in the ninth, it would take a miracle comeback from the Tigers to just get back into the game.
Jones still pitching for the Pale Hose, Hunter kept hope alive. He led off by driving a gapper to right center, tripling to the scoreboard. Cabrera averted a shutout with an RBI single to center, his third hit on the night. Fielder made it three straight hits, singling to center.
Martinez made it four consecutive hits, doubling into the right field corner. Cabrera hobbled home with the Tigers' second run, Fielder holding up at third.
Ventura made a mound visit, but elected to keep Jones in the game. Leyland countered by removing Tuiasosopo for pinch hitter Andy Dirks.
That miracle comeback? Amazingly, it was underway. The dam EXPLODED.
Dirks jumped all over a first-pitch fastball, driving it over the wall in deep right center for an Earl Weaver Special. The three-run bomb was Dirks' ninth home run of the season, pulling the Tigers' within a run at 6-5 (MLB.com video).
What had been a slumbering crowd was now on their feet, screaming for the Tigers to complete their comeback.
Jones had given up five straight hits, five runs having crossed the plate. The bases now empty, Ventura was forced to call for his closer, Addison Reed. He immediately put the tying run on base, walking Infante.
Of course, rather than play for the win, Leyland was playing for a tie. He had Santiago move Infante over with a sacrifice bunt. The first out of the inning was a free one.
I didn't like giving a free out but I guess we will see. Felt deflating.— Bless You Boys (@blessyouboys) September 22, 2013
Alex Avila entered the game, pinch hitting for Pena. Reed walked Avila on five pitches, putting the winning run on base. Six of seven Tigers to bat in the inning had reached base, there was still only one out and the top of the order was due to the plate.
It was beginning to feel as if the inevitable ending would be a Tigers walk-off win.
Reed was struggling mightily to find the plate. He walked Jackson on five pitches, loading the bases. Avila now at second, he was replaced for a pinch runner, Hernan Perez. Hunter, who started the rally with a triple, was back at the plate with a chance to win the game.
He didn't win it, but his fly ball to deep right tied the game at 6-all. Perez also tagged up, the winning run now 90 feet away with Cabrera strolling to the plate. Amazingly, Sale was no longer the pitcher of record, a bullpen meltdown serving him with a no-decision.
Reed still unable to find the strike zone, he reloaded the bases, walking Cabrera on five pitches. At this point, Reed had thrown 25 pitches, only eight for strikes.
With his safety net having been torched, Ventura yanked his struggling closer. Wanting a lefty-lefty match-up, he brought on Donnie Veal to face Fielder. The White Sox finally ended the inning, Fielder bouncing to first.
The Tigers had sent 12 to the plate, scoring six runs on five hits and four walks. Five of the runs scoring before anyone was out. It didn't take long, either.
Tigers scored five runs in 6 1/2 minutes.— Lee Panas (@tiger337) September 22, 2013
We then got an example of the huge gulf in bullpen talent for the Tigers. The ninth inning had Bonderman struggling mightily. In the tenth it was Joaquin Benoit, the Tigers' best bullpen arm, having no trouble with the White Sox, tossing a shutdown 1-2-3 inning.
Also in the tenth, Don Kelly replaced Cabrera at third base. The Tigers announced Cabrera was pulled from the game with "groin soreness," and was day-to-day. Wonderful.
The Tigers' bats went back to sleep in the tenth, Veal setting the side down in order.
Top of 11, it was back to the bullpen being a coin flip. Al Alburquerque got the 11th-inning assignment. One out, Beckham lined a double off the fence in left center. Adam Dunn, pinch-hitting for Anderson, was given a free True Outcome, an intentional walk.
Ventura sent a second straight pinch hitter to the plate. Alejandro De Aza, batting for the Garcia who is not an ex-Tiger, struck out. Alburquerque stranded the lead run in scoring position by retiring Semien on a pop fly to short left.
Right-handed rookie Jake Petricka took the mound for the White Sox in the bottom of the 11th. Santiago again bunted, but this time he was looking for a base hit, pushing the ball past Petricka, Beckham trying to flip the ball to first, instead sailing it over Kornerko's head as Santiago crossed the bag.
Santiago on first with a single, Bryan Holaday moved him to second with a sacrifice bunt. Jackson bounced to short, Santiago taking a huge risk by taking off for third. But Semien elected to go to first for the sure second out, throwing to first. The winning run again 90 feet away, Hunter ended the inning with a chopper to short.
On to the 12th, a wild game knotted at 6-all.
Leyland rolled the dice, asking Alburquerque to pitch a second inning of relief. Leyland rolled a seven. Al-Al came through in a big way, tossing a 1-2-3 inning.
Bottom of 12, it was Ventura's turn to roll the dice, asking for a second inning from Petricka. Ventura crapped out.
Petricka started the 12th by firing seven straight balls, walking Kelly in the process. Fielder bounced to third on a 3-1 pitch, Konerko bailing out Gillaspie by digging his throw out of the dirt. Kelly on second and first base open, the White Sox wanted nothing to do with Martinez. Preferring to face Dirks, Martinez was given an intentional pass.
Fighting with his control, Petricka walked Dirks on five pitches, loading the bases for Infante.
At one point, the game looked as if it would end quickly, in two hours or less. At 11:10 PM, with one out in the 12th inning, Infante completed the Tigers' ridiculous comeback.
The veteran second baseman drove in the game winner when Petricka couldn't handle his comebacker. It likely would have been a double-play ball if he had allowed it to go through. Instead, Petricka stuck his glove out, the ball glancing out of everyone's reach for a game-winning RBI infield single, Donnie Baseball scoring the final run (MLB.com video).
GAME OVER! (Two plus hours later than I believed it was going to be originally.)
Your final score is a completely unexpected Tigers 7, White Sox 6. The Magic Number is down to two. With a little help from the Astros, the Tigers can clinch at home tomorrow afternoon.
One of the hottest teams in baseball, currently riding a 9-2 stretch, the Tigers raise their record to 91-64 (.587). That leaves them a game back of the Athletics (.594) for the second-best record in the AL. Their lead in the Central holds steady at six over the Indians. As things stand after tonight's play, the Tribe are clinging to the second wild card. The odds two teams from the once-derided AL Central will make the postseason looks better by the day.
Sunday afternoon's game with the White Sox is three finales in one. It's a series and season-series finale with Chicago and the regular-season home finale for the Tigers. The Pale Hose send rookie right-hander Erik Johnson (1-2, 2.87 ERA) to the mound, taking on the Tigers' other Cy Young candidate, Anibal Sanchez (14-7, 2.51 ERA).
Johnson is coming off what has been his best game so far, tossing six shutout innings in a win over the Twins last Monday. Tomorrow may be Johnson's fourth career start, but it will be his second against the Tigers. In his first appearance he didn't get out of the fourth inning, allowing six runs (if only two earned) and seven hits in a 9-1 loss on September 10.
Sanchez is in midst of a brilliant second half (7-1, 2.05 ERA), not having lost in 11 starts while leading the AL in ERA. He's been lights out in three September starts (2-0, 1.31 ERA), all Tigers victories. In three starts versus the White Sox this season, Sanchez owns a 1.91 ERA, winning twice. His last start against the the last place team in the Central was a gem on September 10, earning a 1-0 win by tossing 7 1/3 shutout innings.
First pitch for the last regular season home game is scheduled for 1:08 PM.
WIN PROBABILITY GRAPH:
How out of the blue was this comeback? After Semien's ninth-inning double, the Tigers had a win expectancy of 0.3%.
Rod and Mario were styling tonight.
The Tigers reached an attendance milestone tonight.
With tonight's sellout the #Tigers have welcomed 3,041,648 fans to Comerica Park this season. You guys are great!— Detroit Tigers (@tigers) September 22, 2013
Tonight was also the Tigers' 33 sellout of the season, second most in franchise history.
Old-school rookie hazing underway.
I like much of what MLB Network's resident sabermatrician Brian Kinney has to say. But not this.
It's not happening folks. Marginalizing Verlander in the bullpen is beyond ridiculous. I'll put it this way. If MLive types think it's a good idea ... it's not.
As suggested in the game thread by rocknrye, Miguel Cabrera would get around the bases much quicker on one of these:
The Hoveround even has a cup holder!
As the night wore on, some of us at BYB were trying to keep themselves occupied.
I just sang an awful song beginning with Miggy Miggy Miggy. I will spare you the details and hang my head in shame— Bless You Boys (@blessyouboys) September 22, 2013
Rick Porcello: Went toe-to-toe with one of the best pitchers in baseball before running out of gas in the seventh. Regardless, a two-run, six-hit, nine-strikeout game from your number-five starter is like found money. You'll take it!
Andy Dirks: The game doesn't go into extras without Dirks necking a three-run bomb.
Al Alburquerque: Two scoreless innings of relief to earn the win.
The White Sox bullpen: This was their ninth inning: three relievers, 12 batters, five runs, five hits, four walks, and a wasted brilliant Chris Sale performance.
Miguel Cabrera: Three hits and drove in the first run in the ninth-inning comeback, all while barely being able to move.
Omar Infante: It wasn't the prettiest of hits, but a game winner is a game winner, no matter how you get it.
Omar Infante: Two ugly errors for the normally solid second baseman.
The bullpen gong show: If the relief pitcher isn't named Joaquin Benoit, Drew Smyly, Jose Veras or Bruce Rondon, bad things tend to happen. Tonight's gong show contestant was Jeremy Bonderman, who put the Tigers behind the 8-ball with a three-run ninth.
Matt Tuiasosopo: Made a great catch, but was completely ineffectual at the plate. This tweet says it all...
How many times must @BigAlBYB have to hiss TUI?! Oh, the humanity. End it JL!— TB (@TomduhB) September 21, 2013
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Of no shock to anyone, newly crowned 20-game winner Max Scherzer won the PotG poll with 58% of the vote.