Escaping early jam key in Pelfrey's first win

Escaping early jam key in Pelfrey's first win

DETROIT -- Mike Pelfrey wasn't looking for a gift from the heavens. He just wanted an out.

Pelfrey was trying for his first win since last August, his first since becoming a Tiger, and his first career win against the White Sox. Chris Sale was trying to become the American League's first 10-game winner. And three straight singles, none of them particularly thumped, gave Sale a lead before his first pitch, and Pelfrey the pickle of facing the middle of the White Sox order with runners on.

"I thought my stuff was good," Pelfrey said. "I was just thinking, 'Where's this luck that I need? I'm gonna need some luck here.'"

Few would've liked Pelfrey's chances going into Saturday's game. As he stared into the jam, fewer would've figured he'd be getting a beer shower after a 7-4 Detroit win, having outpitched Sale.

The way Pelfrey's recent starts had gone, maybe he was due.

"This game is weird sometimes, I think, the way it works out," Pelfrey shrugged.

Pelfrey had put a lot of work into trying to turn his fortunes. Whatever value goes with pitcher wins, he wasn't giddy about the Tigers' 3-7 record with him on the mound, regardless of three unearned runs last weekend in Oakland, or a bullpen meltdown last month in Baltimore.

Pelfrey was the last pitcher with at least 50 innings without a victory this year. A first-inning escape, a return to pitching and a late-inning go-ahead home run got him off the mark.

"He's pitched well enough to get a win here in the last month a number of times," manager Brad Ausmus said. "Fortunately today we were able to get him a win against one of the better pitchers in baseball."

The first-inning escape started with an aggressive turn from Todd Frazier, whose RBI single over third base and into left field put the White Sox ahead. Left fielder Mike Aviles caught Frazier going and threw back into second, starting a rundown for the first out. Jose Abreu and J.B. Shuck offered at sinkers for groundouts to hold Tyler Saladino at third and keep Detroit's deficit at 1-0.

Once J.D. Martinez's sacrifice fly evened the score in the bottom of the inning, Pelfrey went to work. He didn't have a 1-2-3 inning all afternoon, but the only other runner in scoring position was on Adam Eaton's triple leading off the third, setting up a second run.

Pelfrey's secondary stuff kept the White Sox from centering pitches, more curveballs than splitters. The sinker allowed him to induce eight groundouts.

"I feel like my offspeed stuff is better than maybe it ever has been," Pelfrey said. "So I felt like the results should've been a little bit better, and I should be pitching a lot better than what I was."

Saturday wasn't dominant, but six innings of two-run ball gave the Tigers a chance. And as Martinez's go-ahead homer sailed out to left in the bottom of the sixth, with Pelfrey still the pitcher of record, maybe that luck finally struck.

"It's a pretty good feeling," he said. "I think it's been a while since I've had this feeling."

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.