Two innings in, Chris Sale found himself down 2-0 due to familiar circumstances: an opposite-field Miguel Cabrera homer, a bad route by an outfielder (Avisail Garcia this time) turning a single into an RBI double, and a complete lack of offense.
So how did Sale, the pitcher with the league's lowest run support, end up coasting to a victory with a 109-pitch complete game? Well, a lot of things happened. For a 6-2 ballgame, this one was rather action-packed.
First, Sale settled in nicely, only really running into trouble in the sixth inning, when Cabrera and Prince Fielder led off with singles. Victor Martinez followed with a squibber toward the hole in the left side. Alexei Ramirez ran it down and made a heads-up flip to third, but Jeff Keppinger couldn't come up with it cleanly. Fortunately, 1) Cabrera was running in his usual pained fashion, and 2) he pulled into third instead of sliding, which gave Keppinger time to pick up the ball for the forceout.
Instead of bases loaded and nobody out, Sale merely faced first and second and one out. Matt Tuiasosopo seemed to square one up, but it was only a flyout to deep center for the second out. Omar Infante's grounder to short was much less scary, and a fielder's choice ended the inning.
The Tigers only had one other inning with a runner in scoring position (the fourth), and it was a milder threat by comparison. So Sale was able to throw a complete game, and it didn't seem reckless.
The offense -- using mostly singles, a little BABIP, some what-the-hell baserunning and a helping of uncharacteristic wildness from Doug Fister -- removed a lot of the tension from the proceedings.
In the fourth, the Sox used the Wild Pitch Offense cut Detroit's lead in half. Gordon Beckham singled, move to second on Adam Dunn's walk, and ran the other 180 feet on a pair of wild pitches to put the Sox on the board.
Keppinger picked it up in the fifth inning by leading off with a double. He scored two batters later on Josh Phegley's single to center, blowing through a Joe McEwing stop sign. Austin Jackson's throw looked to be on target, but Prince Fielder tried cutting it off for some reason, and failed at that. The ball trickled away, Phegley took second, and the Sox weren't done.
Alejandro De Aza followed with a single through the left side, but Phegley didn't get a good read on where shortstop Jose Iglesias was positioned, and he couldn't advance. He made up for it by motoring home one batter later on a Beckham single that deflected off Fister and past the second baseman Infante into short right field. De Aza took third, and he scored on Alexei Ramirez's single to give the Sox a 4-2 lead.
For good measure, they tacked on two more against the Detroit bullpen in the eighth, with Phegley muscling a single over the drawn-in infield, and De Aza hitting a sac fly to left. That removed the save situation, but Addison Reed wasn't warming up for one anyway. The bullpen was merely getting ready in case Sale fell into serious trouble, and he never did.
- Garcia went 0-for-4 and stranded seven. The Tigers seem to know how to pitch him (inside, inside, inside).
- Iglesias made one of the plays of the year on a Phegley jam-shot. There must be something about names that start with "Ig."