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Inefficient outing eats at Tigers' Sanchez

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News
Anibal Sanchez throws against the Astros during the first inning.

Houston – The home runs he can account for.

Jose Altuve and George Springer ambushed him – Altuve hit a fastball to lead off the first inning and Springer sat first-pitch off-speed, got it, and hit it out 416 feet to center field. Good hitters, not great pitches – you can deal with that.

What bothered Sanchez, though, was his overall inefficiency. It took him 110 pitches to work through five innings in the Tigers’ 5-4 loss to the Astros Sunday.

“I need to continue working,” he said. “Even in the first two starts (he was 2-0 coming in), even when I threw a good game, it’s a lot of pitches. It’s something I work on, something I need to work for. I don’t want to throw 110 pitches in five innings.

“If I get that many pitches, I want it to be a complete game or something like that.”

Sanchez is still working the kinks out of a new delivery. He no longer rotates his upper body and turns his back on the hitter. It’s a more straight-on approach – which, for the most part, has been helpful.

But he’s still fighting to find some consistency with his command.

“Overall, his pitches are good,” manager Brad Ausmus said. “The home runs hurt, but overall he looks good. He’s controlling the running game, his stuff looks good, he’s got good finish in the zone.”

‘Sloppy’ Tigers dig hole vs. Astros, can’t get out

Sanchez shakes his head. Too many good pitches aren’t going where he intends. Too many are missing his spots, forcing him into too many three-ball counts and long at-bats.

“I don’t know,” he said. “I make an adjustment. I feel I am throwing my pitches. But I’m going to work on it, my focus is throwing more strikes. That will help me get deeper in the game.”

He showed some fight, though. After Springer’s home run, he struck out Colby Rasmus, Tyler White and Evan Gattis in quick order. After Altuve’s two-run single in the fourth, he came back and got a red-hot Springer looking at a called third.

In the fifth, as his pitch count went into triple-digits, he faced a critical two-on, one-out situation. Ausmus showed faith and left him to clean up the mess.

“I saw where my pitch-count was,” Sanchez said. “I put all my effort into getting those outs. I knew they were my last batters. I knew the situation I was in.”

He struck out Luis Valbuena and Marwin Gonzalez to keep it a 5-3 game at that point.

“That was important for him to get through that inning,” Ausmus said. “If we had to make a move, we would have. But he did a good job getting through it.”

Something to build on, perhaps.

“It doesn’t stop here,” Sanchez said. “It’s early in the season and I have to keep working. I have my face up and I am ready to put my best effort for the next outing.”