Trailing 6-0 in the bottom of the ninth inning, all hope looked lost for the home team Detroit Tigers on Saturday. But, as it turned out, the night was just getting started.
In a comeback of historic proportions, the Tigers, led by a three-run home run by Andy Dirks, sparked a six-run rally in the bottom of the ninth to tie the game at 6-6. After two scoreless extra innings, The Tigers won in walk-off fashion when an Omar Infante infield single scored Don Kelly in the bottom of the 12th.
The game was scoreless through six innings. Chicago opened up the seventh with two runs on back to back RBI base hits by Jeff Keppinger and Gordon Beckham off Tigers’ starter Rick Porcello to score Avisail Garcia and Keppinger, respectively. The White Sox struck again in the eighth on a Paul Konerko single to score Conor Gillaspie.
Leading 3-0 in the ninth, Chicago added three more runs on a double by Bryan Anderson, scoring Jordan Danks and Keppinger, and a single by Marcus Semien to score Anderson.
Facing White Sox reliever Nate Jones in the bottom of the ninth, the Tigers’ offense exploded. Torii Hunter led off the inning with a triple to center field, and was knocked-in on the next at-bat by a Miguel Cabrera single. Prince Fielder singled after Cabrera, and Victor Martinez drove in Cabrera with an RBI double, advancing Fielder to third. Andy Dirks, pinch hitting for Matt Tuiasosopo, took the first pitch from Jones into the right-center field bleachers, cutting the deficit to one run with no outs.
Chicago closer Addison Reed relieved Jones, walking three of the first four batters he faced to load the bases with one out. Hunter’s sacrifice fly scored Omar Infante to tie the game at 6-6, and Cabrera walked to load the bases with two outs.
Donnie Veal replaced Reed with two outs, and grounded out Prince Fielder to end the inning.
In the 12th, White Sox reliever Jake Petricka (1-1) walked Don Kelly, Victor Martinez, and Andy Dirks to load the bases with one out. On a one-two pitch, Omar Infante grounded a single off Petricka’s glove to score Kelly, capping off a historic comeback for the ages.
“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.”
“We know as long as you have outs left, you have a chance,” Hunter added.
Cy Young award candidate Chris Sale starred yet again for the White Sox, pitching 7 2/3 scoreless innings, allowing four hits, a walk, and striking out seven. He was taken out in the eighth inning after just 97 pitches.
Rick Porcello started for the Tigers, surrendering six hits and two earned runs, and striking out nine. Al Alburquerque (4-3) earned the win for Detroit, allowing one hit and striking out two in scoreless 11th and 12th innings.
The rally represented the first time since 1947 that Detroit has scored six or more runs in the ninth inning, and the first time since 1918 that Chicago has lost after leading by six or more runs in the ninth inning or later.
The Tigers conclude the three-game weekend series against the White Sox on Sunday at 1:08pm. Anibal Sanchez (14-8) will take the mound for the Detroit against 23-year-old rookie Erik Johnson (2-2). With a six game lead over second-place Cleveland in the American League Central, the Tigers can clinch the division tomorrow with a win and a Cleveland loss to Houston.