Sale slows down first-place Tigers, goes distance

Sale slows down first-place Tigers, goes distance

CHICAGO -- Chris Sale dealt with a couple of unusual feelings during the White Sox 6-2 victory over the Tigers on Monday night at U.S. Cellular Field.

The southpaw actually received run support, with the six runs pushed across by the offense representing the highest total scored behind Sale (8-11) this season. And then Sale experienced a little down time in the fifth inning, when the White Sox (45-72) sent nine men to the plate and scored three times to take the lead.

"It was fun to watch, sitting in there in the dugout and taking a little bit of extra time," said Sale after finishing off his fourth complete game this season and the fifth of his career. "It's huge. We started off a little bit slow and it just shows we are still fighting and scrapping and competing."

Sale threw 109 pitches and struck out six, allowing nine hits and not issuing a walk in picking up his second straight victory. He entered the night with a 2.95 ERA and 100 strikeouts in 85 1/3 innings over his last 12 starts and had a 2-9 record during that stretch.

But even with this rare offensive outburst, with that three-run fifth surpassing the total game support given to the All-Star in 13 of his previous starts, it was not quite smooth sailing to the finish. Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder reached on singles to open the top of the sixth, and with Victor Martinez and his eight hits in nine at-bats against Sale this season stepping to the plate, it looked as if good fortune was not going to last.

"That's it?" said Sale with a laugh of Martinez's individual dominance. "I thought he was 10-for-9."

This particular battle went to Sale, as Cabrera was forced at third when shortstop Alexei Ramirez made a great play in the hole on Martinez's grounder and threw to Jeff Keppinger moving back to cover the bag. Keppinger dropped the ball but picked it up quick enough to beat Cabrera, who came in without a slide.

Matt Tuiasosopo followed with a long flyout to center, and Omar Infante grounded out to second baseman Gordon Beckham to end the inning.

"We faced an All-Star pitcher that pitched awfully well," said Tigers manager Jim Leyland of Sale. "We gave him good at-bats, but he was good. He was real good tonight.

"You've got to be real stingy when you run into a guy like that, but tonight we weren't stingy enough. That's one of those where, hey, tonight he was better than we were."

Detroit starter Doug Fister (10-6) moved through the first three innings on 32 pitches and just one hit allowed, making it look as if he would throw a complete game on about 80 or 90 pitches. Things got much more difficult over the next two innings, when nine White Sox reached base.

A wild pitch brought home Beckham in the fourth, with Beckham knocking out three singles on the evening. Josh Phegley, who had two hits and two RBIs, singled home Keppinger in the fifth, with Keppinger reaching on one of his three hits, and Beckham and Ramirez added run-scoring singles.

Beckham's single up the middle with runners on first and second was deflected by Fister into right field, in what looked to be an inning-ending double play if he let the ball go through to shortstop Jose Iglesias. With the plethora of bad breaks going against the White Sox this season, they weren't about to argue with a little bit of assistance from the Tigers (69-48).

"We've seen enough of that that it's OK for it to happen for us every once in a while," White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. "It was a good night offensively, too."

"Obviously, it worked out for us.," Beckham said. "Lucky, but sometimes luck plays into it."

Cabrera's 37th home run, coming in the first, and Brayan Pena's run-scoring double in the second gave the Tigers a 2-0 advantage. Sale has received 2.53 runs of support per game for the season, which is the lowest in the Majors, so he looked in trouble early.

It was a different White Sox offense on this particular night, with Sale making that support stand.

"When Sale is on, that's probably all he's going to let you have," Detroit right fielder Torii Hunter said.

"I look at it as kind of a learning experience," said Sale of the losing ways despite his mound dominance. "You are going to run through times like this, good, bad or indifferent. Like I said before, take the good with the bad and appreciate nights like this. Keep grinding on those other nights."

His Monday grind finished off with Pena's grounder to Keppinger, as Sale was not about to let someone else finish what he started.

"It's always nice," said Sale, who has a 2.06 home ERA and a 2-1 record against the Tigers. "It's always satisfying, especially knowing the workload our guys down in the 'pen have had as of late and all year. Any time you can finish what you started, it's always nice."

"If they'd have brought a reliever in, we'd have had two guys standing on the mound for sure," said Phegley of Sale's strong desire to pitch the ninth. "I don't think anybody was going to be able to take him out."

Scott Merkin is a reporter for Read his blog, Merk's Works, and follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.