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Tigers 7, White Sox 3: Chris Sale lacks support, loses duel with Max Scherzer

Shoddy defense allows five unearned runs in opener of series

Brian Kersey

In the highly touted pitching matchup between All-Star aces, Chris Sale and Max Scherzer both allowed two earned runs over eight innings. Sale struck out 11, while Scherzer struck out a season-low five.

So it seems like this game should've been closer than it was. Sequencing had something to do with it, and defense had even more say.

Sale allowed a pair of unearned runs in the fifth, although I'd call them third-degree offenses. Alexei Ramirez got played by a hop on a Hernan Perez grounder leading off the fifth inning. Sale came back to get two groundouts, but it brought Miguel Cabrera to the plate.

With the Sox trailing 1-0, Robin Ventura chose to walk Cabrera intentionally to set up a lefty-lefty matchup. But then Sale walked Prince Fielder on four pitches to load the bases. Victor Martinez bounced a single under Sale's glove and into center for two runs, which turned the IBB into a bomb. Ramirez is an easy mark for the error since Cabrera should've led off the sixth, but Sale needed four batters to get the third out, so he could've helped himself more. Either way, it changed the complexion of the ballgame considerably.

The Sox and Tigers exchanged solo shots afterward -- Dayan Viciedo in the sixth, Torii Hunter in the seventh, Conor Gillaspie in the eighth -- but they were down by at least two runs for half the game.

And then hilarious defense buried them in the ninth. Ramon Troncoso -- who is pitching a lot for some reason -- gave up a leadoff single to Brayan Pena, then failed to field Perez's sac bunt cleanly. His throw to first from the seat of his pants was late, and that put two on.

Austin Jackson then failed on his own bunt attempt, and Josh Phegley caught Pena straying too far from second. Phegley fired a good throw to second, and Pena committed to third. Ramirez fired a throw that was not good -- wide and eventually into the stands -- which allowed Pena to score and Perez to take third. Jackson doubled Perez home, and he came around to score on a bloop single to put the game well out of reach.

The Tigers contributed their own whimsy to the game in the bottom of the ninth. Alex Rios hit a two-out double, took third on a wild pitch, and scored on Bruce Rondon's balk. So that also happened, and it raised Sale's league-worst run support -- 2.70 per game entering tonight -- by a smidge. It sitll doesn't quite match Sale's 2.81 ERA, and that's why he's 6-9.

Scherzer entered the game receiving 5.89 runs per game, and that goes up a bit with seven runs tonight. That's why he's 14-1.

Bullet points:

  • Sale's night ended on a strike-him-out-interference-out, as Matt Tuiasosopo fell into Josh Phegley's path after swinging at strike three. Phegley's had to double-clutch as the hitter fell across his view, and when he finally released it, it went well to the first-base side and hit Victor Martinez in the calf, which was kinda funny.
  • Scherzer retired the first 12 batters he saw. Adam Dunn broke up the perfect game and no-hitter when he bounced a single past Cabrera to lead off the fifth.
  • Cabrera didn't make a great effort, and he left the game with what the Tigers are calling a sore hip flexor. He appeared to injure/aggravate it while scoring on Martinez's single, and he's day-to-day.
  • Scherzer retired the first 12 batters he faced before Adam Dunn bounced a single past
  • Five of the seven Detroit runs were unearned.

Record: 39-57 | Box score | Play-by-play | Highlights