DETROIT (AP) — Justin Verlander pitched eight impressive innings, and the Detroit Tigers inched closer to a postseason spot Wednesday, rallying after benches cleared in the sixth inning to beat the Chicago White Sox, 6-1.

White Sox ace Chris Sale was breezing along with a shutout when he hit Victor Martinez with a pitch in the sixth. The two exchanged words and the benches and bullpens emptied. The situation didn’t escalate and Martinez eventually scored to tie the game at 1.

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Ian Kinsler gave Detroit the lead with an RBI double in the seventh off Javy Guerra (2-4).

The AL Central-leading Tigers can now do no worse than a tie for a wild card. Detroit clinches a postseason spot if Seattle loses Wednesday night.

Verlander (15-12) allowed a run and seven hits in eight innings. He struck out six without a walk.

The Tigers lead Kansas City by 1 1-2 games atop their division, with the Royals set to play Wednesday night.

Sale allowed a run and four hits in six innings. He struck out 10 and walked three, becoming his franchise’s career leader with his 18th game of at least 10 strikeouts. Ed Walsh had 17.

The White Sox took the lead in the sixth on Dayan Viciedo’s RBI triple, and Detroit’s offense looked dormant when Miguel Cabrera led off the bottom half with his third strikeout of the game.

Then Sale’s first pitch to Martinez hit the Detroit slugger around the back of his left shoulder. Martinez walked slowly to first, and the two started jawing at each other. It appeared something in the area of center field had caught Sale’s attention, because he pointed out there in agitated fashion as Martinez went to first.

After striking out Martinez three innings earlier, Sale had tipped his hat toward center field.

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The benches and bullpens emptied after Martinez was hit, and once order was restored, J.D. Martinez doubled and Nick Castellanos hit a sacrifice fly.

Kinsler’s double put the Tigers ahead 2-1 the following inning, and Cabrera added a sacrifice fly. Detroit scored three runs in the eighth on a well-executed squeeze play by Andrew Romine and RBI singles by Rajai Davis and Kinsler.

Cabrera struck out four times, only the third time in his career that’s happened and the first time since Sept. 17, 2010.

TRAINER’S ROOM

White Sox: After the bench-clearing incident, Sale pitched the rest of the sixth before being pulled after 101 pitches. Manager Robin Ventura was already trying to ease the left-hander into the offseason. This was Sale’s final start — he finishes the year at 174 innings after missing a month early on with a muscle strain near his left elbow.

Tigers: Detroit RHP Anibal Sanchez (pectoral strain) still has not pitched since being activated from the DL before Tuesday’s game. He’s now part of the Tigers’ bullpen but was not used Wednesday.

UP NEXT

White Sox: After losing two of three to the Tigers, Chicago has another chance to play spoiler in a four-game series against the Royals. White Sox LHP Jose Quintana (9-10) faces Kansas City RHP James Shields (14-8) on Thursday night.

Tigers: Detroit hosts four games against Minnesota. Tigers RHP Max Scherzer (17-5) takes the mound against Twins RHP Trevor May (3-5) on Thursday night.

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