DETROIT (AP) — The Detroit Tigers will probably clinch a division title in the next few days.
It would have to be quite a celebration to top this.
Detroit tied Saturday night’s game with an astonishing six-run rally in the ninth inning, then beat the Chicago White Sox 7-6 when Omar Infante hit an infield single with the bases loaded in the 12th.
Infante’s grounder deflected off the glove of reliever Jacob Petricka with one out, and the Tigers spilled onto the field with Comerica Park in a frenzy. Detroit plays its final scheduled home game of the year Sunday and can clinch a third straight AL Central championship with a win and a Cleveland loss.
“All year we’ve battled,” outfielder Andy 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.”
Trailing 6-0 in the ninth, the Tigers scored five runs before the first out. Dirks’ three-run homer as a pinch-hitter pulled Detroit within one.
“We know as long as you have outs left, you have a chance,” outfielder Torii Hunter said.
The Tigers won after trailing by six in the ninth for the first time since Aug. 22, 1947, according to STATS. They beat the Washington Senators 7-6 that day.
It was the first time since at least 1918 the White Sox lost after leading by at least six runs in the ninth inning or later.
About the only negative for the Tigers was Miguel Cabrera’s departure shortly after his ninth-inning single. He left with groin soreness, and said he’d see how he feels Sunday.
Chicago’s Chris 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 the ballpark into a memorable one.
Hunter led off with a triple and scored on Cabrera’s single. After a single by Prince Fielder, Victor Martinez added an RBI double.
The key hit came from Dirks, who followed Martinez with a homer that made it 6-5.
“It’s a good feeling to put the team down by a run but then the rest of the guys came through and scored the other run to tie it up,” Dirks said. “That speaks highly of this ballclub. It’s one thing to get close, it’s another thing to tie it up and then win it.”
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 Prince Fielder to ground out to keep the game tied.
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 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.
NOTES: Chicago acquired LHP Frank De Los Santos from Tampa Bay for a player to be named or cash. He will not be added to the major league roster. … Detroit LF Matt Tuiasosopo made an outstanding diving catch for the third out in the seventh, preventing the White Sox from scoring more that inning. … The Tigers send RHP Anibal Sanchez (14-7) to the mound Sunday to face Chicago RHP Erik Johnson (1-2).