CHICAGO – Gerald Laird hit a tiebreaking single in the 11th inning and the Detroit Tigers escaped with a 9-7 victory over the Chicago White Sox on Sunday night when Manny Ramirez was caught looking at strike three with the bases loaded for the final out.
Jim Leyland became the 18th manager to work 3,000 games. He watched the Tigers score six in the seventh to take a 7-3 lead only to have the bullpen give it away in the ninth and barely escape at the finish.
The winning rally started when Brandon Inge struck out on a wild pitch from Sergio Santos (2-2) and advanced all the way to third when catcher A.J. Pierzynski's low throw to first bounced to the tarp along the right-field line. Brennan Boesch was intentionally walked before Laird delivered the go-ahead single to left, his second hit.
Austin Jackson then followed with a double to left, driving in Boesch to make it 9-7, and a bullpen that gave away a four-run lead in the ninth finally finished it in the bottom half, giving the Tigers the weekend sweep.
Not that there wasn't more drama.
Alexei Ramirez led off the 11th against Eddie Bonine with a single and Alex Rios walked. Paul Konerko nearly won it, just missing a three-run homer when his shot down the left-field line landed a few feet foul before he struck out looking on a 3-2 pitch.
The Tigers then brought in Daniel Schlereth, who got A.J. Pierzynski to ground into a force before walking Carlos Quentin to load the bases.
That brought up Manny Ramirez, who looked at a 2-2 breaking ball for the third strike, giving Schlereth his first career save and the Tigers the weekend sweep.
The loss was the sixth straight and 10th in 12 games for the White Sox, who were swept in back-to-back series for the first time since they dropped three in a row in May 1989. They loss three to AL Central leader Minnesota before Detroit came to town, all but wiping out whatever shot they had at the division title.
Not that they made this one easy on the Tigers — Detroit's bullpen didn't help matters either.
The ninth was particularly brutal, with three walks, a hit batter and a wild pitch, erasing what looked like a comfortable lead.
Phil Coke, filling in for closer Jose Valverde, came on and immediately gave up a leadoff ground-rule double to Pierzynski, who came around on Brent Morel's one-out single. He then walked Andruw Jones to load the bases before Juan Pierre chased him with a single to left that cut it to 7-5.
Robbie Weinhardt (2-2) came in, but the meltdown continued.
Alexei Ramirez made it a one-run game when he grounded into a force before Rios got hit in the left shoulder, loading the bases for Konerko. As the remaining fans chanted "Paulie! Paulie!" Weinhardt uncorked a wild pitch that allowed Alejandro De Aza, running for Jones, to score the tying run.
He then walked Konerko to reload the bases before retiring Pierzynski on a broken-bat grounder to short to end the inning.
Scott Sizemore and Casper Wells each hit their third homer for Detroit, with Wells' two-run shot coming in that big seventh against John Danks.
Danks was tagged for seven runs and six hits in 6 1-3 innings.
Detroit's Jeremy Bonderman allowed three runs and seven hits, walking five without a strikeout while throwing just 65 of 121 pitches for strikes over 5 2-3 innings.