White Sox left-hander Chris Sale rarely gets much offensive support. Against Max Scherzer and the first-place Detroit Tigers on Monday night, Chicago's defense also failed the staff ace.
Scherzer outpitched Sale in a marquee matchup of All-Star starters, and the Tigers overcame Miguel Cabrera's hip-flexor injury to beat the White Sox 7-3.
The White Sox allowed five unearned runs and made three more errors to reach 64 after committing 70 last season. Two of the four runs Sale (6-9) allowed were unearned, and to top off Sale's bad night, he had a bit of a disagreement with the coaching staff over giving up an intentional walk.
"Obviously you've got to be a little more focused with a team like this, the talent they have over there, and when you're going up to pitch against Scherzer," Sale said.
Scherzer (14-1) won his first 13 decisions before losing his last outing before starting the All-Star game for the American League last Tuesday at Citi Field. He went eight innings Monday and allowed four hits while striking out five.
The right-hander, who didn't allow a baserunner until Adam Dunn's single with one out in the fifth, increased his league-leading strikeout total to 157. The only two runs Scherzer gave up came on solo homers by Dayan Viciedo and Conor Gillaspie.
"He's tough," Dunn said. "He's the best this year so far. We knew what we had ahead of us coming in and we knew it wasn't going to be easy.
"He did what he's been doing all year: pitching good. He just beat us."
The lack of support Sale received in the field proved big when Detroit scored twice in the fifth. Chicago shortstop Alexei Ramirez committed a leadoff error on Hernan Perez's grounder, paving the way for two unearned runs on Victor Martinez's single.
Ramirez made two errors in the game to up his AL-leading total to 16. He also threw the ball away on an easy pickoff to let a run score in the Detroit's three-run ninth.
"It's going to happen every once in a while," White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. "You hope this one, even in the second half, is one of those every-once-in-a-whiles."
Sale seemed to lose his cool in the fifth inning when Ventura wanted to walk Cabrera. Sale issued the walk, but had some words with pitching coach Don Cooper about it. Then he walked Cecil Fielder and allowed a two-run single to Martinez.
"I don't like giving people stuff," Sale said. "I like people to earn getting on base."
The disagreement continued in the dugout with Ventura between innings.
"He needs to have a little more composure and get that guy (Fielder) — not worry about what happened before," said Ventura, who labeled the intentional walk "my call."
Sale pitched eight innings and gave up four runs — two earned. He yielded seven hits, including a solo homer by Torii Hunter in the seventh, and struck out 11.
Sale (6-9) has struck out at least 10 five times this season.
After he left, Detroit scored three unearned runs in the ninth to put the game out of reach, with pitcher Ramon Troncoso and Ramirez making errors. Ramirez's miscue was a throw that went out of play and allowed Brayan Pena to score from second on a pickoff play.
It's possible the White Sox may not have to face Cabrera the rest of this series.
With one out in the bottom of the fifth inning, Cabrera was replaced at third base by Don Kelly. The 2012 AL MVP, who appeared to be holding his left side as he walked off the field, was removed with a sore hip flexor muscle and will be evaluated Tuesday.
"You know what, if he's got to miss a few games he's got to miss a few games and we find out how tough we are," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said.