In a desultory season for the Chicago White Sox, this was a low point.
Chris Sale's terrific outing went to waste when Chicago blew a six-run lead in the ninth inning Saturday night. The White Sox went on to lose 7-6 to the Detroit Tigers when Omar Infante hit an infield single with the bases loaded in the 12th.
"I'm not the first guy to say it: The last three outs are the hardest to get," Sale said. "It's baseball. It's definitely not the first time and definitely not the last time."
But this may have been a first for the White Sox. Since at least 1918, they had never lost after leading by at least six runs in the ninth inning or later, according to STATS.
Chicago (60-94) again let Sale down. For most of the season, run support has been a problem. That's why Sale is 11-13 despite a 2.97 ERA.
On Saturday, he was done in by the bullpen.
Sale was working on a shutout when he was pulled in the eighth after 97 pitches. Nate Jones got out of that inning and after the White Sox added three runs in the top of the ninth, he came back to the mound with a 6-0 lead.
Detroit wasted no time turning a previously subdued night at Comerica Park into a memorable one.
Torii Hunter led off with a triple and scored on Miguel Cabrera's single. After a single by Prince Fielder, Victor Martinez added an RBI double.
The key hit came from pinch-hitter Andy Dirks, who followed Martinez with a three-run homer that made it 6-5 with nobody out.
"They were swinging early and often," Jones said. "I just wasn't making pitches. You've got to give credit to that lineup."
Chicago closer Addison Reed, who didn't appear to have had much time to warm up, came on and immediately walked Infante, who moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Ramon Santiago.
Pinch-hitter Alex Avila and Austin Jackson both drew walks to load the bases for Hunter, whose sacrifice fly tied it.
"Just when you think you've seen everything," White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. "The game's hard unless you get 27 outs. They kept battling — good at-bat after good at-bat."
Cabrera walked to load the bases again, but Donnie Veal came on and got Fielder to ground out to keep the game tied.
"All year we've battled," Dirks said. "We always say it doesn't matter if we're down or we're up, we're going to keep on grinding out at-bats and try to win the game no matter what."
Al Alburquerque (4-3) threw two scoreless innings for Detroit, which scored the winning run without hitting the ball out of the infield. Don Kelly walked and went to second on Fielder's groundout. After an intentional walk to Martinez, Dirks walked to load the bases.
Infante's grounder might have been a double play ball, but reliever Jacob Petricka (1-1) tried to field it, and when it bounced off his glove, the White Sox had no play.
Sale allowed four hits and a walk. He struck out seven.
"He's definitely one of the better lefties we've faced," Jackson said. "He changes speeds really well. He's able to throw his offspeed stuff for a strike, so there's really not anything you can just sit on."
Detroit starter Rick Porcello allowed two runs and six hits in 6 2-3 innings. He struck out nine.
The White Sox scored two runs in the seventh and one in the eighth before a three-run ninth appeared to have put the game out of reach. Bryan Anderson hit a two-run double in the ninth.