By Ashley Dunkak
COMERICA PARK (CBS DETROIT) - The puzzle of how Detroit Tigers manager Jim Leyland will piece together a starting rotation for the playoffs just keeps getting more intriguing.
With more wins than any other pitcher in baseball and an ERA and WHIP that are nearly as impressive, Max Scherzer is one of the favorites in the American League Cy Young race.
He should not be the only on the Tigers rotation in contention, however.
Anibal Sanchez, who dropped off the radar a bit when he went on the disabled list in mid-June with a strained right shoulder, has been just as good and maybe a little bit better.
Tuesday he gave up just two runs in six and one-third innings and struck out 10.
“He’s always good,” Leyland said. “He gives it everything he’s got. He’s got a good repertoire of pitches. He’s a very, very good big-league pitcher, obviously. Once again, he was vintage Sanchy tonight – very, very good.”
Perhaps most impressively, Sanchez has allowed two or fewer runs in 20 of his 26 starts. In other words, in 77 percent of Sanchez’s starts, the Detroit offense only had to score three runs to win.
Leyland said Tuesday that what makes a good pitcher is one that gives his team a chance to win almost every time he is out there. Scherzer, with 19 wins this season, has certainly done that, but Sanchez absolutely has as well.
Sanchez has the best ERA in the American League – 2.51 – by a significant margin. He is tied for sixth in the league in strikeouts with 188 and tied for sixth in wins with 14.
Detroit right fielder Torii Hunter resorted to cartoon imagery to describe how effective Sanchez has been against batters.
“It’s like that Bugs Bunny change-up, you know that one you swing three times and you’re out?” Hunter said. “One swing and this guy – he’s very impressive. He’s changing speeds. You saw that today with 10 Ks. He knows how to pitch, and that’s the reason why he has that nice long-term deal here and you guys are going to see him for a long time.”