DETROIT – No margin for error.
Backed by an offense that ranks 11th or lower in the American League in every significant category, and matched up against right-hander Michael Fulmer (2.42 ERA), Chris Sale had very little wiggle room as he cruised along against the Detroit Tigers Wednesday night. One mistake, a first pitch 93-mph fastball to pinch-hitter J.D. Martinez, seeing his first pitch since coming off the disabled list, ended up on the other side of the center field wall and made the difference in a 2-1 loss for the White Sox.
Sale pitched his fourth complete game and with 10 strikeouts recorded double digits for the 32nd time in his career. He walked one and allowed six hits – including a hard-hit double to Miguel Cabrera (who struck out the other three times) and a softly hit double to Nick Castellanos in the fourth.
Martinez homered leading off the eighth, after the Sox shot themselves in the foot hitting into three double plays – one when Adam Eaton strayed too far off second on an over the shoulder catch by second baseman Ian Kinsler.
“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.’’
Justin Morneau hit a tying homer in the seventh and the Sox had a chance to tie or go ahead in the ninth when Melky Cabrera led off with an infield single against Francisco Rodriguez and Jose Abreu walked. But after Morneau moved Cabrera to third with a fly ball to center, Todd Frazier struck out. Avisail Garcia walked to load the bases but Dioner Navarro hit a soft grounder to second, giving the Tigers (59-
48) their eighth straight win and the Sox (51-56) their sixth loss in seven games.
“It was a changeup, it was a strike, I just didn’t wait long enough,’’ Navarro said.
“[Sale] threw all his pitches for strikes and was ahead in the count. Especially when you face an offense like they have you have to be on point and he was tonight. We just couldn’t score any runs.’’
Sale fell to 14-5 with a 3.12 ERA. He hasn’t won since July 2 despite allowing four runs over his last three starts.
“Can’t cash it in now,’’ Sale said. “It’s going to stink a whole lot more if you do that. Come in tomorrow and try to start a new streak to get us going when we get back home.’’
More time for Garcia
J.B. Shuck was called back up to replace injured center fielder Charlie Tilson, but Avisail Garcia will benefit with increased playing time. Garcia, who hit home runs of 426 feet and 459 feet in an 11-5 loss Tuesday, has been elevating the ball of late and these last two months could be his last chance to prove he’s worth keeping going forward. He was 0-for-2, reaching on a hit-by pitch and walk, Wednesday.
“This last week is probably the best we’ve seen him since we got him,’’ manager Robin Ventura said. “He’s starting to figure out some things as far as elevating the ball and swinging the bat.’’