Anibal Sanchez Fans 17 to Break Detroit Tigers Franchise Record
As many know and has been written many times, the beauty of baseball is how often you witness something you have never seen before. Or at least something you hardly expected.
Friday night in Detroit was one of those nights as the great Mickey Lolich’s name was removed from the team record book. Detroit Tigers’ righty Anibal Sanchez set about mowing down the Atlanta Braves early and often on his way to a Detroit franchise record 17 strikeouts in his 8 shutout innings. Sanchez was in control throughout keeping Braves hitters completely off-balance by showcasing his array of pitches in nearly any count. Sanchez showed his dominance by getting 14 of his strikeout victims with a swinging third strike on the evening. The Tigers supported the effort of their pitcher by cutting loose on the visitors with a 10-0 drubbing.
Sanchez wasn’t even the hottest pitcher in the matchup during pre-game warmups. Atlanta’s Paul Maholm had been pitching wonderfully in the early going building off the best season of his career last year. The power hitting Braves came into town having mashed their way into first place in the NL East. But Maholm has never notched a “W” against an American League opponent and he was unable to reverse this trend against a Tigers’ offense that had been dormant. The Tigers had scored only 16 runs in the previous 7 games. But they were all over Maholm with 10 hits and 3 walks to run the Braves’ pitcher to the showers before he could complete 4 innings. Maholm was tagged for 8 runs overall with Victor Martinez, Matt Tuiasosopo, and Torii Hunter leading the attack.
Sanchez was the story by the middle innings. He managed to pitch around his lone jam in the second-inning when Chris Johnson laced a hanging curve for a one-out double and then a B.J. Upton walk put two runners on base. Those two baserunners were merely the filling in a triple decker strikeout sandwich of 3 K’s in the inning as Sanchez fanned Evan Gattis and Juan Francisco with a runner in scoring position to dodge any trouble.
Dan Uggla and Freddie Freeman were both 4-time whiffers in their matchup with Detroit pitching. Uggla and Freeman both committed fielding miscues in this one as well to add a little insult to injury. Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez was evidently very curt and icy with the media afterward, crediting Sanchez but sounding very stern in his disgust with the effort put forth by his Braves.
Anibal Sanchez broke a team record that had stood in Detroit since Tigers’ legend Lolich fanned 16 batters twice in the 1969 season. Sanchez’ previous career high had been 14 K’s and he had never struck out more than seven Braves in all his previous matchups with Atlanta. (Sanchez, of course, saw the Braves frequently pitching in the NL East for the Miami Marlins until last year’s deadline deal brought him to Detroit)
Sanchez fanned at least one hitter in each inning and struck out the side twice. Several times he backed up his change-up by come right back with another change-up to fool Braves hitters. Sanchez also showed tremendous fastball command on the evening while flashing 95-mph velocity (which seemed to be a tick above what he had shown in his initial outings on the season). He allowed only 5 hits while issuing the lone walk to Upton to go along with the 17 K’s. Sanchez notched his third “win” on the year and lowered his ERA to a tidy 1.34.
Sanchez signed a 5-year/$80MM free agent contract in the off-season. Many wondered if the Tigers would be able to sign him once the off-season kicked off but Dave Dombrowski surveyed the scene, determined what offer made sense financially, and made a successful play to get Sanchez in the fold long term. Sanchez pitched beautifully down the stretch in Detroit last year and then flourished in each round of the playoffs as the Tigers won the AL Pennant and lost in the World Series to the San Francisco Giants. Judging by early returns, Sanchez is looking to be a key cog for the Tigers as they strive to get back into the post-season and take the final step toward a World Series Championship.
Fun notes you find on Twitter: Justin Verlander now has only the third highest Career High Strikeout Game in Detroit’s rotation (Sanchez and Max Scherzer). Also the pitcher in the Tigers’ rotation who has the longest consecutive strikeout streak in AL history is not named Justin Verlander (Doug Fister with 9 straight Royals struck out last season)