DETROIT — Want an accurate summary of Chris Sale and the 2013 White Sox?
Look no further than Saturday night.
Sale set a single-season franchise record for strikeouts by a left-hander in 7 2/3 shutout innings but received a no decision as his bullpen blew a six-run lead in the ninth.
The Detroit Tigers rallied and then went on to an improbable 7-6 victory in 12 innings at Comerica Park. Omar Infante’s one-out RBI single off Jake Petricka sent the White Sox to their ninth loss in 11 games and 18th in 22. The White Sox still need three victories over their final eight games to avoid only the fourth 100-loss campaign in franchise history.
Count Saturday’s defeat among the worst of the 94 this season. Prior to Saturday, the White Sox had never lost a game they led by six runs in the ninth inning or later, per the Elias Sports Bureau.
“Just when you thought you have seen it all you get to see something else,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said.
Nate Jones, who preserved a three-run lead when he recorded the last out of the eighth inning, allowed five straight hits to open the ninth. The last of those hits was a pinch-hit, three-run home run by Andy Dirks that made it a 6-5 game.
Addison Reed then took over and walked three of the first four batters he faced to load the bases, the only out courtesy of a sacrifice bunt.
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Torii Hunter, who opened the ninth with a triple to right-center, tied the game with a sacrifice fly to right. But Donnie Veal retired Prince Fielder on a bases-loaded grounder to keep the score tied.
Petricka loaded the bases in the 12th inning with three walks before Infante singled off the pitcher’s glove to lower Detroit’s magic number to two games.
“They were swinging early and often and I just wasn’t making the pitches,” Jones said. “It was a bad night all around. ... Chris pitched his butt off, and tonight I just didn’t do my part for the team and that’s why we ended up losing. But Chris definitely deserved to win.”
Sale struck out seven to give him 221 for the season as he outdueled Detroit’s Rick Porcello, who struck out nine.
Porcello and Sale matched each other pitch for pitch through six innings.
But Jeff Keppinger broke a scoreless tie with two outs in the seventh inning when he doubled to left-center to drive in Avisail Garcia, who singled and stole second base. Gordon Beckham’s RBI single made it 2-0. Paul Konerko singled in a run in the eighth, and Bryan Anderson and Marcus Semien’s back-to-back doubles brought in three more as the White Sox extended the lead to 6-0.
That was plenty for Sale, who was extremely efficient against the American League’s No. 2-ranked offense.
Sale retired 18-of-19 at one point, and Miguel Cabrera, the only batter to reach in that span was, was thrown out easily as he tried to stretch a single into a double.
Sale ended the first inning with a strikeout of Fielder, already Sale’s second of the game. That whiff moved him past fellow left-hander Gary Peters for most strikeouts in a single season. Peters struck out 215 batters for the White Sox.
Sale struggled in the eighth inning as he allowed a hit and issued his only walk but struck out Brayan Pena. Jones then came on to induce a grounder from Austin Jackson with two aboard.
Sale — who gave up four hits — allowed three runs or fewer for the 22nd time in 29 starts. Even so, Sale, who is 11-13 this season, is guaranteed to finish with a sub-.500 record as he only has one start left.
“It’s baseball,” Sale said. “It’s sports. It’s definitely not the first time it’s happened, and it’s definitely not the last time. This game has been around for 100 years and it’s gotten crazier probably every single year, and it’s probably going to continue to do that. So just keep your head up and not worry about the what-ifs and maybes and worry about what we’ve got tomorrow.”