DETROIT -- The Tigers stood pat at Monday's Trade Deadline in part because they felt that players coming off the disabled list could give them a boost soon. J.D. Martinez gave them a big boost Wednesday, stepping off the DL and off the bench for a go-ahead, pinch-hit home run off Chris Sale in the eighth inning, helping extend the Tigers' winning streak to eight games with a 2-1 win over the White Sox on Wednesday night at Comerica Park.
"I can't remember any like it," said Tigers manager Brad Ausmus, whose team moved within two games of the first-place Cleveland Indians in the AL Central. "Certainly I'll remember this game."
Martinez, activated from the 15-day DL earlier in the day after missing six weeks with a fractured elbow, was held out of the lineup after playing a doubleheader on a rehab assignment with Triple-A Toledo on Tuesday. But Ausmus took a chance with him off the bench, hitting for James McCann.
"I had my plan off of [Sale]," Martinez said, "and then I got caught up in the moment, and I was like, 'You know what, forget this. See ball, hit ball. Look for the ball up. Just be ready to hit.' I saw it nice and slow and I just said, 'This is it.'"
Martinez hit the first Major League pitch he had seen since June 16, a Sale fastball, into the shrubs in left-center field, an estimated 434-foot drive, according to Statcast™. It was his second career pinch-hit home run, but his third career homer in 32 plate appearances against Sale (14-5), who fell to 3-4 lifetime at Comerica Park, despite a season-high 10 strikeouts over eight innings.
"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."
Sale trailed for much of the game in his duel opposite Michael Fulmer, but Justin Morneau's second homer this season off the Tigers rookie tied the game at 1 in the seventh. Fulmer tossed 6 2/3 innings of one-run ball with four strikeouts before Shane Greene (2-2) thwarted a go-ahead opportunity for the White Sox in the seventh inning.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Castellanos opens the scoring:Nick Castellanos was trying to hit a ball to the right side to advance Miguel Cabrera from second base with one out in the fourth when he got enough of a Sale fastball to drop a soft line drive inside the right-field line for an RBI double.
Morneau ties it up: Morneau took Fulmer deep with two outs in the seventh inning for a solo home run to tie the game. The blast ended a string of seven consecutive batters retired by Fulmer. It was Morneau's third homer of the season and second off Fulmer.
Diving stop by Iglesias: Moments before Martinez broke the tie, Jose Iglesias sent the game into the bottom of the eighth with a highlight stop, ranging up the middle and diving to smother Tim Anderson's ground ball before throwing him out at first base.
"That play he made tonight was unbelievable," Greene said. "I've already told him more than once that's the kind of player he is, and he needs to keep it up."
Abreu makes most of second chance: First baseman Jose Abreu helped Sale and the White Sox escape further damage in the fourth inning. He dropped a popup from Mike Aviles in foul territory and was charged an error. On the next pitch, he got another opportunity, on a nearly identical play. This time he made the catch, turned and gunned out Victor Martinez trying to tag up and score.
Sale said that after allowing the first three men on base in the fourth inning he tried to stay focused and slow the game down in order to limit the damage.
"That's a tough lineup, so I tried not to let them blow the game open right there," Sale said. "Just bear down and try to get out of that inning with as little damage as possible." More >
"When you get the crowd into it, it makes it that much more special. That's what you play for, when the crowd gets like that. That's why you hear guys in here always stressing about the fans here. We want the fans to be in it, because when they're in it, it makes you kind of live up to it. You feed off that energy, and that's how I felt like it went right there." -- Martinez on the ovation he received stepping to the plateMore >
"That one's going out anywhere. You tip your cap to J.D. on that one" -- White Sox manager Robin Ventura on J.D. Martinez's pinch-hit home run in eighth inning
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Fulmer lowered his ERA for the season to 2.42, the second-lowest by a Tigers pitcher through his first 17 career starts since 1920.
After Fulmer's first pitch to Avisail Garcia hit the knob of his bat and his hand with two outs in the seventh inning, Ventura challenged the ruling, arguing that the pitch hit Garcia's hand first. After a review, umpires couldn't determine with certainty, and the call stood. Seconds later, it became irrelevant, as Fulmer's next pitch hit Garcia without question.
WHAT'S NEXT White Sox:Jose Quintana (8-8, 2.89) takes to the mound for the series finale at Comerica Park at 12:10 p.m. CT. He is making his first start of the month after a successful July. He went 3-0 with a 1.95 ERA last month. He has gone six innings or deeper in six straight starts and in eight of his last nine.
Tigers:Jordan Zimmermann (9-4, 3.95) returns from the disabled list to start in the series finale, making his first outing since June 30. J.D. Martinez is expected to return to the Tigers' lineup in right field for the first time since mid-June. Game time is 1:10 p.m. ET.