Sanchez pitches 2-hit shutout as Tigers rough up Reds

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News

Detroit — There are games as a catcher when every pitch call seems like a choice between the lesser of two or three evils.

Monday night, with Anibal Sanchez throwing darts in all quadrants of the plate, it was more like playing poker with a handful of aces for catcher James McCann.

"You think about what you want to do to hitters and really, any pitch he's locating," McCann said. "So you are not nervous about, 'Hey, is he going to hang this?' Or, 'Does he have a feel for this one?'

"Everything was working. It was kind of like we could do whatever we want right now. That's when it's real fun."

Sanchez threw a two-hit, complete-game shutout in the Tigers 6-0 win over the Reds.

BOX SCORE: Tigers 6, Reds 0

"That's about as good as you can get without throwing a no-hitter," McCann said. "That's Anibal Sanchez right there."

It was his second straight dominant start and his first complete game and shutout since May 24, 2013. He has now thrown 16.2 straight scoreless innings.

"I think the most important thing is that it was a team win," Sanchez said. "It's not about my career or if I threw a complete game two years ago or nothing like that. I feel really good and I am healthy and I am going to continue to battle the whole season."

As he did in 7.2 scoreless innings against the Cubs last week, he was setting up his off-speed pitches with a firm and well-located fastball.

"Down in the zone, spotting it up and down," McCann said. "He did a heckuva job hitting his spots with every pitch."

He struck out seven, didn't walk anybody and faced one hitter over the minimum. The two hits were singles, one a bunt single against the shift by Joey Votto. Only one runner got to second base. He retired the final 16 batters he faced.

"He was just great," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "The one thing we've seen with him is that you can try to get him on counts where he has to throw the fastball over the plate, and I'm not sure he ever had to do that against us.

"He was ahead of every batter and he had command of every pitch. There wasn't much we could do."

The Tigers are now 6-2 since they snapped the eight-game losing streak.

"I just feel like we are playing good baseball," said Ian Kinsler, not ready to say the team is on a full-out roll just yet. "I think this team could get on a roll and I hope it does. But right
now, we're just trying to keep playing good baseball."

It was the middle of the batting order that helped the Tigers blow the game open. In a four-run sixth, Miguel Cabrera doubled in two runs and J.D. Martinez blasted a long, two-run home run to right-center field. It was his 13th home run and his third in three days.

The Tigers had 11 hits, two each by Cabrera, Yoenis Cespedes, Martinez and Jose Iglesias.

In the last six games, Cabrera is 13 for 22 with two homers and nine RBIs. Martinez, in the last seven, is 11 for 29 with four homers and 13 RBIs.

"Our starting pitching is giving us a chance and our offense is starting to develop innings pretty consistently," Kinsler said. "We just want to keep that going. But this game, this one was all about Anibal Sanchez."

Just a couple of weeks ago, Sanchez was in one of the worst funks of his career. He had given up seven runs in back-to-back starts and 21 runs over four starts. So, what's clicked?

McCann and Ausmus will tell you that it's his command, especially his fastball command, which allows him to attack hitters and work ahead in the count.

Sanchez, though, says it came from a higher place.

"For this turnaround, I think it's my faith in God," he said. "I believe more in Him...I think I have been working hard for my whole career, but I just put everything in His hands and I think everything turn around."

Chris McCosky on Twitter @cmccosky