DETROIT – The Detroit Tigers looked dormant with the bats until a pitch from Chicago’s Chris Sale hit Victor Martinez around the back of his left shoulder.
Then tempers flared, the benches and bullpens emptied — and Sale’s shutout didn’t last much longer.
Martinez came around to score the tying run in the sixth inning, and after Sale came out of the game, Chicago’s bullpen was no match for the Tigers. Detroit won 6-1 on Wednesday — and clinched a spot in the postseason when Seattle lost to Toronto.
The worst the Tigers can end up with now is a wild card. Detroit is trying for its fourth straight AL Central crown, and the Tigers took a two-game lead over second-place Kansas City, which lost at Cleveland. Detroit’s magic number to clinch the division is three.
With one out in the sixth and Chicago up 1-0, Sale’s first pitch to Martinez hit the Detroit slugger. Martinez walked slowly to first, and the two started jawing at each other. Sale appeared to point out toward center field in agitated fashion as Martinez went to first.
“They were claiming that someone with binoculars in center field was giving signs to Victor,” Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. “I think it’s a little weak that they would hit him. 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.”
Sale didn’t accuse the Tigers of stealing signs afterward, and he said he wasn’t specifically gesturing toward center field.
“I was just throwing my arms up, like you do when you are upset,” the left-hander said. “I wasn’t really trying to control where they pointed.”
Justin Verlander (15-12) allowed a run in eight innings for Detroit.
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.
Red Sox 11, Rays 3
In Boston, Anthony Ranaudo pitched seven strong innings, and Garin Cecchini hit his first major league home run to help the fifth-place Red Sox whip Tampa Bay.
Ranaudo (4-3) allowed two runs on six hits and a walk, striking out two to snap a three-game losing streak. The victory was the 69th of the season for the defending AL East and World Series champions, who need one more win to beat their total from 2012 — their only season under Bobby Valentine.
Jake Odorizzi (11-13) allowed five runs in three-plus innings.
Rangers 5, Astros 1
In Arlington, Texas, Texas Lisalverto Bonilla became the first pitcher in Rangers history to win his first three career starts with a victory over the Astros.
Bonilla (3-0), promoted Sept. 2 from Triple-A Round Rock, allowed four hits and struck out seven in six scoreless innings.
Orioles 9, Yankees 5
In New York, Derek Jeter and the Yankees were eliminated from postseason contention, beaten by Baltimore.
Jeter went 0-for-4 as the designated hitter in his next-to-last game at Yankee Stadium.
The Yankees missed the playoffs in consecutive years for the first time since 1992 and ’93.
New York pinch hitter Ichiro Suzuki popped out in the ninth inning.
Blue Jays 1, Mariners 0
In Toronto, Mark Buehrle pitched eight shutout innings to reach 200 innings for the 14th consecutive season, Ryan Goins drove in the only run and the Blue Jays pushed Seattle closer to playoff elimination.
Toronto’s Munenori Kawasaki was 0-for-2 with a run scored and walked once.
Angels 5, Athletics 4
In Oakland, Howie Kendrick doubled and drove in three runs, and AL West champion Los Angeles held off the playoff-hopeful Athletics.
The A’s and Kansas City are tied for the AL wild-card spot.
Angels star Mike Trout left the game before the top of the fifth with a stomach illness.
Indians 6, Royals 4
In Cleveland, Yan Gomes hit a three-run homer, Michael Brantley got three more hits and the Indians stayed in the AL wild-card chase for at least one more day by beating Kansas City.
The Royals’ Norichika Aoki was 1-for-5 and scored a run.