Detroit – After about 10 days of good, solid baseball, the Tigers slopped one up Wednesday.
Shoddy defense, mental blunders, poor pitching – a lot of hands contributed to the 8-5 loss to the Phillies, which snapped a four-game winning streak.
From a big-picture standpoint, though, nothing that happened Wednesday was more troubling than Anibal Sanchez’s performance. If the Tigers aren’t going to get more from their No. 3 starter than what they’ve been getting through the first 10 starts, they are going to have to ask themselves some difficult questions about the rotation.
BOX SCORE: Phillies 8, Tigers 5
“Inconsistent,” said acting manager Gene Lamont, subbing for Brad Ausmus who learned before the game that his mother had died. “He had some good innings, it looked like he was in a groove, then all of a sudden he hangs a pitch.”
For the fifth straight start, Sanchez couldn’t come up with a clutch pitch or a key out. Four of the six runs he allowed came with two outs. He’s been tagged for 23 runs (20 earned) in his last five outings – all Tigers losses. His ERA overall is still over 6.00 (6.04).
“I start the game strong, putting the ball down and then, same story,” Sanchez said. “One inning, one pitch, two pitch. I just know I am healthy and I am going to keep working. Sooner or later, everything will turn.
“I don’t know when and I don’t know what I have to do, but I’m going to find out.”
He didn’t get much support from the defense early in the game, but he was one pitch away from escaping trouble in the second and fourth inning.
He gave up three runs on one bad pitch in the fourth. With runners at second and third with two outs, and the Tigers down 2-1, Sanchez decided to go after Odebel Herrera, instead of Freddie Galvis. He hung an off-speed pitch on a 2-1 count and Herrera hit it into the seats in right field.
“Little things happen and it changes everything,” Sanchez said. “That’s what disappoints me. I make a mistake and I pay for it – it’s three runs. It’s not like one mistake and it’s a base hit. But I will figure it out.”
The Tigers fought back against Phillies starter Aaron Nola, scoring three times in the fifth to make it 5-4. And Sanchez seemed to slay his demons in the sixth inning, putting the Phillies down in order (with a caught stealing).
Lamont wanted Sanchez to get one right-handed hitter out in the seventh inning – light-hitting Peter Bourjos – before going to the bullpen. Sanchez got two quick strikes on him, then gave up a line-drive homer to left field. Bourjos was hitting under .200 and hadn’t hit a home run this season.
“If I’d known he was going to hit a home run, I wouldn’t have left him out there,” Lamont deadpanned.
You could sense the air coming out Sanchez and the Tigers after that.
“The sixth has been a tough inning for him and we’re trying to ease him along,” Lamont said. “He’s getting frustrated, you can tell. If we didn’t know how good a pitcher he is, it would be different. But we know what he has in there.”
The Tigers don’t have much choice at this point but to keep running Sanchez out there every five days and trust he will work through it.
“He just needs to put it together,” Lamont said. “For his confidence, he needs to put seven or eight good innings together. Right now, he hasn’t been able to do that.”
Sanchez said he will continue to search for answers.
“I need to throw some good games for the team,” he said. “They are playing well and everybody else is throwing good. I need to be right there. I know I have the talent and I need to put it together.
“I am not going to put my face down. I just got a lot of work to do.”
Still, it was a 7-2 home stand for the Tigers, who hit the road again for three-game series in Oakland and Anaheim.
“It was a good home stand,” Lamont said. “But when you are 7-1, you want to go out 8-1.”