DETROIT (AP) — Miguel Cabrera hit his 30th homer, and then Prince Fielder immediately had to duck out of the way from a high, inside pitch from Chicago’s Chris Sale.
The following inning, Detroit’s Luke Putkonen threw behind Alexei Ramirez — and suddenly, the Tigers were down a reliever and a manger after Putkonen and Jim Leyland were both ejected.
What looked like a promising day for Detroit had quickly turned frustrating. Joshua Phegley’s sixth-inning grand slam put the White Sox ahead to stay, and the Tigers went on to lose 6-3 on Thursday. Two batters after Phegley’s drive, Putkonen nearly hit Ramirez and the benches and bullpens emptied.
“I wasn’t trying to hit anybody,” Putkonen said. “Just threw a fastball inside, and it got away from me.”
Chicago trailed 3-1 when Phegley cleared the bases with a homer off Detroit starter Anibal Sanchez (7-6). Putkonen came on and got one out before his pitch sailed behind Ramirez, who started toward the mound before being restrained.
Benches and bullpens emptied, but the situation didn’t escalate into any sort of fight. Putkonen was ejected, and Leyland argued with umpires at length and was also tossed from the game.
Phegley’s homer gave Chicago a 5-3 lead. Alejandro De Aza made it 6-3 with a homer in the eighth off Phil Coke, who said he was still annoyed with what had taken place earlier.
“I was watching Sale after he threw the pitch that Miguel hit out,” Coke said. “He picks up the rosin bag, and fires it at the back of the mound. Like, ‘OK, your frustration’s over.’ And the first pitch almost hits Prince in the face. ... Putkonen goes out there and leaves a ball up and in, and gets thrown out of the game. That doesn’t make any sense to me.”
Sale (6-8) allowed three runs in 6 2-3 innings. Addison Reed pitched the ninth for his 23rd save in 27 chances.
Sale said he didn’t mean to come close to hitting Fielder after Cabrera had given the Tigers a 3-1 lead with his homer in the fifth.
“Even when I threw it on the mound, I was kind of like, ‘Ohhhhh, that’s not good.’ So from the outside looking in, it doesn’t look good at all,” Sale said. “I swear on everything I love, it was unintentional.”
Leyland did not speak to reporters after the game. Plate umpire Chad Fairchild explained the decision to eject Putkonen.
“He threw behind him and I deemed it intentional,” Fairchild said.
Fairchild did not view Sale’s pitch to Fielder the same way.
“There was no reaction from Fielder. He said nothing. There was no reaction from anyone else,” Fairchild said. “The only reaction I saw was from Sale, who made a motion like, ‘Damn, it got away.’”
Detroit center fielder Austin Jackson couldn’t come up with Jeff Keppinger’s sinking liner to start the sixth and was charged with an error. After a walk and a strikeout, Gordon Beckham singled and the 25-year-old Phegley followed with a grand slam in his 18th major league at-bat.
Sale allowed 10 hits, walked two and struck out eight. He left in the seventh after allowing a double by Torii Hunter, and Matt Lindstrom came on and got Cabrera on a flyout.
Ramirez opened the scoring in the first with an RBI double, but Matt Tuiasosopo put the Tigers ahead with a two-run homer in the second.
Cabrera’s solo shot increased his RBI total to 94. He’s the first player to reach 30 homers and 90 RBIs before the All-Star break, according to STATS. A pair of Cincinnati Reds — Tony Perez in 1970 and George Foster in 1977 — made it to 29 and 90.
The Tigers lead second-place Cleveland by 2 ½ games in the AL Central.
NOTES: Detroit’s Victor Martinez extended his hitting streak to 13 games with a three-hit day. ... Chicago RHP Jake Peavy (fractured left rib) is scheduled for a rehab game Sunday with Double-A Birmingham at Huntsville. ... Detroit hosts Texas on Friday night, with RHP Doug Fister (6-5) taking the mound against RHP Justin Grimm (7-6) of the Rangers. The White Sox play at Philadelphia. Chicago LHP John Danks (2-5) takes on Philadelphia RHP Jonathan Pettibone (5-3).