DETROIT — Anibal Sanchez gave up as many homers in his last start as he did in his previous eight starts combined. The veteran Detroit Tigers right-hander will try to bounce back from that disastrous outing when he faces the streaking Minnesota Twins on Friday.
The Baltimore Orioles clubbed five long balls, including three in a row, during Sanchez’s three-inning stint on Sunday. Sanchez allowed eight earned runs, his worst performance since he gave the same amount to Texas on Aug. 12 last season.
“He just got the ball up,” Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. “Pretty much every single one of them were up in the zone. Not all the same pitch but they were up in the zone. When he commands the fastball, he’s pitched well.”
John Hicks was Sanchez’s batterymate that afternoon and felt just as frustrated as Sanchez.
“Our job as a catcher is to get the pitcher through quality innings and give us a chance to win,” he said. “Whether it’s pitch calling or whether I’m not giving him a good enough target, whatever it is, we’ve got to work through it. It’s hard on me, for sure, as a catcher because you look back and say, ‘What more could I have done to help him? What more could I have done to get him through a few more innings?'”
Sanchez (3-2, 6.62 ERA) won his only start against the Twins this season, allowing three runs in 5 2/3 innings at Minnesota on July 21. He didn’t give up any homers that day. He’s 6-4 with a 3.71 ERA in 21 career appearances against the Twins, including 17 starts.
“When he’s on, he can put the ball where he wants to,” Hicks said. “The other day, he left some heaters up in the zone and had a couple of sliders that kind of spun. Anytime a guy has the stuff he has and gives up three, four, five home runs, obviously something’s not right that day.”
Another struggling right-hander, Kyle Gibson, will oppose Sanchez. Gibson has lost three of his last four starts, though the victory came against the Tigers. He held them to three runs in 7 1/3 innings on July 22. That provided some payback for two poor outings in April against Detroit, when he was roughed up for 11 earned runs in 6 2/3 innings and tagged with the loss both games.
Gibson gave up three runs on seven hits in 5 1/3 innings in a 4-1 loss to Texas Saturday. Nomar Mazara’s two-run homer in the first was all the Rangers needed.
“A little frustrating the first couple of innings,” Gibson said to MLB.com after that outing. “I just didn’t execute. What we did in the third, fourth and fifth is more what we wanted to do, going in on guys. I didn’t expect Mazara to be so aggressive on the first pitch. But after that, we settled in.”
Gibson is 5-7 with a 5.65 ERA in 13 career starts against Detroit.
Minnesota carries a five-game winning streak to Comerica Park after defeating Milwaukee 7-2 Thursday night. It leads Detroit in the American League Central Division standings but the Tigers have held the upper hand in head-to-head meetings, going 6-3 and winning each series.
“It’s good how well we are playing, how we are finding ways to win games,” Twins starting pitcher Bartolo Colon said to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. “Hopefully we can keep winning games and see what we can do down the road.”
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