By Ashley Dunkak
COMERICA PARK (CBS DETROIT) – With the Chicago White Sox leading the Detroit Tigers, 1-0, in the bottom of the sixth inning Wednesday, White Sox ace Chris Sale plunked Tigers designated hitter Victor Martinez on the shoulder. Fans booed, and the pitch puzzled Martinez, but he headed to first base without issue until Sale suddenly started yelling at him.
Martinez began to walk in the direction of the mound, and the dugouts and bullpens quickly emptied. In a move that Tigers manager Brad Ausmus apparently found quite loathsome, Sale had hit Martinez in protest.
“They were claiming that someone with binoculars in center field was giving signs to Victor,” Ausmus said after the game. “To me it’s a little bit ridiculous. I doubt Victor had a guy at U.S. Cellular Field with binoculars when he hit the home run off [Sale], so I don’t know if Victor has someone in every stadium. It’s a little bit ludicrous to me that they would even make this claim.
“I think it’s a little weak that they would hit him,” Ausmus continued, clearly indignant about the situation. “You don’t take a chance. If they injure Victor there and we’re in the playoff hunt, that’s bad news. That just can’t happen. He clearly did it on purpose. He made it obvious. And quite frankly, we can’t even do anything about it because there’s warnings issued. If we retaliate, now one of our guys gets suspended, that’s a guy who can be suspended right into the playoffs. It was just weak on Sale’s part.”
Martinez said that, as he headed to first base after Sale hit him, he did not know why the pitcher was so worked up until he talked with former teammate Avisail Garcia, who now plays for the White Sox.
“Honestly, I have never had a problem with [Sale] – never,” Martinez said. “I’ve actually talked to him a couple times, but when he hit me, it was like, his ball came right at me. Then I looked at him, he didn’t say anything then. I kept walking, took my stuff off, all of a sudden I hear [yelling].
“Avisail Garcia … he came down from right field, and I was like, ‘What’s wrong with him?’ and he told me, ‘He’s saying that you’ve got somebody behind him and he’s giving you the signs,'” Martinez recounted. “I’m like, ‘Pffff, you’ve got to be kidding me. You have to be kidding me.’ But like I said, man, I think he just woke the whole team up.”
Indeed, after Martinez took his base, J.D. Martinez doubled, scoring Victor Martinez. The Tigers went on to win the game in convincing fashion, 6-1.
“I don’t think it lights a fire or anything like that, but it definitely gives us some energy,” second baseman Ian Kinsler said. “There’s no doubt about it. Someone’s putting something on you that’s a little ridiculous, a little far-fetched, so it definitely gave us some energy, and for Vic to come around and score right there was big.
“For a guy that’s throwing 95 to just drill one of our big boys like that and we’re not able to retaliate because we’re in a playoff race, all outs are important to us, that’s kind of a hard one to swallow,” Kinsler added.
Most likely because Detroit won the game – in no small part because of Sale’s apparent decision to put Martinez on base – Martinez did not seem to harbor any ill will toward the White Sox ace, who entered the game with an ERA of 2.20.
“He’s one of the best pitchers in the game, and he’ll realize that he was wrong because how can I be doing something like that? Be paying attention to somebody behind him and then pay attention to him? All of the sudden the ball might be behind me [and] I don’t even know [it],” Martinez said. “Why he didn’t he say anything when I was so struggling last year? But it is what it is, man. I keep playing my game hard and just trying to help the team win.”