DETROIT -- Chris Sale didn’t make many mistakes on Wednesday night.
But he paid dearly for one.
Late in a strong outing Sale left a fastball up to pinch-hitter J.D. Martinez, who belted a solo home run to send the White Sox to a 2-1 loss to the Detroit Tigers in front of 32,526 at Comerica Park. Martinez’s eighth-inning blast to center made a loser of the White Sox, who left the bases loaded in the ninth and lost for the sixth time in seven games. They dropped to 51-56 despite 10 strikeouts from Sale.
“That’s what good hitters do,” Sale said. “They make things happen in games and clearly you saw what he did and it won the ballgame for them.”
Just off a seven-week trip to the disabled list, Martinez drew a standing ovation from the crowd as he stepped in to face Sale to start the eighth inning with the score tied at 1. The roar he received when he ripped Sale’s 93-mph fastball out to dead center, a 435-foot shot, and put Detroit ahead was even louder.
With a deadly slider in his arsenal, Sale was otherwise fantastic. Making his second start since he returned from a five-game suspension, the 14-game winner pitched as well as he has all season. He pitched his way out of a nasty fourth-inning jam with minimal damage and had Tigers hitters tied up. Sale struck out 10 batters, his first double-digit strikeout performance of the season.
He allowed two earned runs and six hits in eight innings and walked one.
“(Sale) was as sharp really as he has been all year,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “You get the tough inning, the fourth, that he gets a ball that falls in down the line. I thought he did a great job getting out of that. We made a nice play to get it at home plate. The homer, that one is going to go out anywhere. You tip your cap to J.D. on that one. But I thought this was as sharp as Sailor has been in a while.”
[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]
The White Sox offense didn’t receive many chances and missed out on the limited ones they had. None was bigger than the ninth inning as they put the tying and go-ahead runs aboard.
Down 2-1, the White Sox loaded the bases in the ninth inning against Francisco Rodriguez. Melky Cabrera had an infield single and Jose Abreu drew a walk. Cabrera advanced to third on Justin Morneau’s fly out to left-center field. Todd Frazier struck out with runners on the corners and Avisail Garcia walked to load the bases. But Rodriguez escaped the jam when he got Dioner Navarro to ground out to second to end the game.
“It was a changeup, it was a strike, I just didn’t wait long enough,” Navarro said. “I was just thinking about swinging at strikes.”
Navarro also struck out with the score tied at 1 in the seventh inning with a runner in scoring position against Shane Greene. Earlier in that inning, Morneau took Tigers starter Michael Fulmer deep to tie the game at 1. Morneau’s third homer sped up Fulmer’s departure after six previously outstanding innings. Fulmer walked Frazier and hit Garcia and Greene took to face Navarro.
Fulmer allowed a run and five hits in 6 2/3 innings.
“We had a shot there,” Ventura said. “It just doesn’t happen. We got it going. I think Melky had a hustle single, that he hits it on the left side, got down the line and beats it out. Jose with a nice one, and even Justin, that’s what you want to see him do, put it in play and put it somewhere where if it’s not a hit, you get the guy to third base, and we just didn’t get it in.”