By Ashley Dunkak
COMERICA PARK (CBS DETROIT) – Hindsight being 20/20, it looks like Detroit Tigers manager Jim Leyland made the right call starting Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander in games one and two, rather than Anibal Sanchez.
Granted, the debate seemed warranted based on recent months. Sanchez gave up two runs or fewer in 14 of his last 18 starts, amassing a 9-3 record and 2.43 ERA in that span.
Monday, though, he faltered. The ERA champion of the AL, Sanchez lasted just four and one-third innings against the Oakland A’s in game three of the ALDS.
He gave up three home runs, including a line drive shot into right to Brandon Moss and a two-run bomb to Seth Smith.
“Just left some off-speed pitches up, where they were a little more hittable rather than normally he gets the swings and misses, normally being able to locate pretty well,” catcher Alex Avila explained. “Today, he wasn’t pitching bad, just made a couple of mistakes, like I said with some off-speed pitches that got too much of the strike zone.”
Sanchez allowed five earned runs – another scored on an error by Cabrera – which was his worst total since May 29, when the Tigers lost 5-3 to Pittsburgh.
“He obviously wasn’t sharp,” manager Jim Leyland said. “Sometimes he starts out a little slow. You figure he’s going to get going. Today he just really didn’t get it going. He made a couple of real bad pitches the last inning he was out there to [Brandon] Moss and [Seth] Smith.”
Sanchez’s pitch count already exceeded 60 after three innings, and in the top of the fifth, his struggles caught up with him. Two of the homers he allowed came in quick succession, just one batter apart.
After the game, Leyland stood by his decision to leave Sanchez in the game as long as he did.
“He’s my guy, and he did lead the league in earned run average,” Leyland said. “You figure he’s going to get out of it at any time because he’s good at making pitches. He struck out first guy in the inning, got a change-up to Moss and a fastball to Smith that he hit pretty good. It got up in the jet stream.
“I don’t think twice about that,” Leyland added. “Like I said, he led the league in earned run average.”