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Sanchez, Tigers snarling again as they shut down Cubs

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News

Detroit — Verve.

That's what was lacking, as much as anything, during the Tigers eight-game losing streak. It looked at times like they were dragging themselves through games.

A couple of wins later, the verve is back.

"Oh, absolutely," said Rajai Davis, after the Tigers won their third straight game Tuesday, beating the Cubs 6-0. "I guess now we're playing with a little more sense of urgency, and the guys are rolling."

BOX SCORE: Tigers 6, Cubs 0

Davis certainly provided the initial spark. He doubled and scored in the first, took a two-run home run away from David Ross in the second, then tripled and scored in the fifth.

"He saved the game," said Tigers starter Anibal Sanchez, who got himself back on track pitching 7.2 innings of scoreless ball. "I think that's the game right there (with the catch). Like I said, all the guys played hard today, everybody played really good. But Rajai, he made the game with that play."

Go back to Friday night in Chicago against the White Sox. The Tigers were one out away from a win when Davis couldn't quite leap high enough to snag Adam LaRoche's wall-scrapping, game-tying homer.

That was on his mind Tuesday as Ross high-arcing drive kept sailing toward the left-centerfield fence.

"I was just thinking about Chicago," he said. "I think I could've given a better shot at it, but those are things you learn from for the next one."

This time Davis, who had to track Ross's shot a long way, timed his leap perfectly and stole what would have been a two-run home run.

"Well, I definitely felt like jumping on that one," he said. "It felt like I had some springs in my legs on that one, some extra springs. I don't know where they came from, but they were there."

To the Tigers, that was turning point.

"Not only was it big for (Sanchez), it was big for our offense," said catcher James McCann. "It was the difference between being ahead 1-0 and down 2-1. That momentum shift allowed us to go up and stay relaxed and not fight a losing battle. We still had the lead."
The offense went to work on Jon Lester.

Davis greeted him with a double in the first and scored on the first of three singles by Miguel Cabrera.

A two-run single by Nick Castellanos made it 3-0.

They added two more and chased Lester from the game in the fifth. A triple by Davis, double by Ian Kinsler and a single by J.D. Martinez did the damage.

The final run came on a Josh Wilson double and an infield single by Kinsler.

Sanchez had more than he needed to snap his personal four-game losing streak.

"He did a heck of a job right from the beginning of pounding the bottom of the zone," McCann said. "It's one thing to pound the zone, but if you pound the bottom of the zone it's going to be a tough night for the hitters.

"He established his fastball early and that opened up all the off-speed stuff."

Davis bailed him out in the second. Yoenis Cespedes had Sanchez's back in the fifth. Junior Lake tried to score from second on a two-out single by Addison Russell. He must not have read the scouting reports on Cespedes' arm.

He was thrown out by several feet at home. It was the sixth outfield assist by Cespedes.

"It's good for me," Cespedes said when asked if he was surprised Lake challenged him. "I wish every time a ball was hit right there that they would go."

In the eighth, though, Sanchez needed some help from Joba Chamberlain. After he got the first two outs, a single by Dexter Fowler and two walks loaded the bases .

In came right-hander Chamberlain to face left-handed hitting Miguel Montero. Why not a left-hander? Because Montero hits lefties (.273, .545 slugging percentage) better than righties (.231, .393).

Chamberlain struck Montero out on a nasty, 3-2 slider.

"Just tried to read the at-bat," Chamberlain said. "Sanchy pitched his tail off and we played great all around, scored some runs. I was just trying to minimize the damage. Getting out with a zero is the best-case scenario."

Chris McCosky on Twitter @cmccosky