It turned to be a thriller, but the latter party won, as the Tigers scored three runs in the ninth, then tacked on one in the 10th for the second sweep of the Sox in one fortnight. Going back to last year, the the Tigers have swept three September series in a row, and have won 12 straight against the White Sox in this particular month.
And Dylan Axelrod, making his first career start, suffered more than most. I'm going to go more into his start tomorrow, but he did everything he could with his modest set of tools, and he held the Tigers in check for two runs over six innings.
Pitchers with far nastier stuff lost control of this game. Chris Sale pitched wonderfully in the eighth, bailing out Jesse Crain by coming in with runners on first and second and nobody out, and getting Victor Martinez to bounce into a double play. He escaped the eighth unscored upon, but the ninth was a different story.
It started when Jim Leyland summoned Sox-killer Ryan Raburn off the bench, and he went to work by taking Sale deep with one out in the ninth, making it a 5-3 game. After Sale walked Magglio Ordonez unnecessarily, Ozzie Guillen brought in Sergio Santos to counter pinch-hitter Brandon Inge. Except Leyland countered that move by bringing in All-Star catcher Alex Avila, who jumped on Santos' second pitch and tied the game with a homer to right-center.
Guillen's poor managing continued when he bunted Juan Pierre to second after Pierre led off the ninth with a walk That both wasted an out and set up a Paul Konerko intentional walk. And even though Pierre ended up stealing third, A.J. Pierzynski ended up grounding sharply into a 4-6-3 double play, following by a helmet slam, then a helmet kick.
That pretty much showed the White Sox were beaten, but the Tigers made it official in the 10th when Martinez led off with a double, and pinch-runner Will Rhymes scored on a Carlos Guillen single to score the winning run. Jose Valverde struck out the side in the ninth.
It should've been an easier game, especially after the Sox struck for four in the third inning. They loaded the bases with nobody out, but Brad Penny struck out Gordon Beckham, and got Pierre to bounce into a 3-2 fielder's choice. Ramirez followed by blooping a double down the right field line to snap the team's streak of 15 hitless at-bats with runners in scoring position. Konerko then drove in two more with a single to center, giving Axelrod a 4-1 lead.
The Sox even answered a Detroit run in the sixth with one of their own. Alejandro De Aza led off with a double, and then scored when Gordon Beckham's hot shot down the line deflected off Wilson Betemit's wrist and into left field, restoring the three-run margin.
Oddly enough, Betemit did find a way to hurt the Sox with his defense when he made a diving stab on Brent Morel's hard grounder to Betemit's right. It saved a run, and it was one the Sox could've used.