Sanchez falters again, Tigers rally isn't enough

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News

Anaheim, Calif. — The Tigers have an extremely difficult decision to make regarding Anibal Sanchez, who faltered again here Tuesday night.

A gallant, home-run driven comeback from a 9-2 deficit doesn’t alter that narrative. Though it certainly spiced up what had been a rather dull, one-sided ballgame.

“A loss is a loss, man,” Justin Upton said. “We fought, but at the end of the day, a loss is a loss. Wish we could have finished it.”

The rally went for naught when C.J. Cron blasted his second home run of the game, a two-run walk-off in the ninth off Mark Lowe, giving the Angles a wild, 11-9 win.

“Tremendous comeback,” Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. “The fight was good. But it’s still a loss.”

It was 9-2 when the dust cleared from Sanchez’s latest flame-out — and another rough relief outing by Warwick Saupold — after four innings.

BOX SCORE: Angels 11, Tigers 9

But the ball was flying out of Angels Stadium. Miguel Cabrera hit his 12th home run in the first inning, a 456-footer into the rocks in left-center. Upton blasted his third, a 421-foot bomb to left in the second.

J.D. Martinez hit a two-run shot in the sixth, another long blast to left field. It was his 11th home run of the season and made it 9-4.

Angels starter Hector Santiago walked two and struck out two before departing in the seventh. Cam Bedrosian came on and walked Jose Iglesias to load the bases.

Then, on a 3-2 pitch, Ian Kinsler drove a fastball into the seats down the line in left field — his first career grand slam. That suddenly, it was 9-8.

Victor Martinez tied it in the eighth. He blasted a one-out shot to the seats in right field off Fernando Salas.

The Tigers had eight hits, five of them home runs. Combined, the teams bashed nine homers.

“It was nice to see the life,” Kinsler said. “We didn’t just fold. Would we have loved to win that game? Absolutely. It’s tough to fight out of a seven-run deficit and then let it slip.”

Tougher still is trying to decide what to do about Sanchez.

He got clubbed again Tuesday night. He gave up six runs (three home runs) and eight hits in just three innings. Cron (two-run shot), former Tiger Jefry Marte (solo) and Mike Trout (three-run shot) all took him deep. There were very few softly-hit balls off him.

“I don’t know what’s going on right now,” said a genuinely down-hearted and perplexed Sanchez. “I have to clear my mind. I have to do something to change everything. Believe me, I come here every single day to work and put my best effort out there every five days.”

This was the 11th start for Sanchez and there was no detectable progress. His ERA is 6.67. He has allowed 14 home runs in 56 2/3 innings (43 in 213 going back to last season). In six May starts, he allowed 38 hits and 29 runs (26 earned) in 33 innings.

“I want to get back to like it was before when the team trusted me and I trusted myself,” Sanchez said. “I want to be competitive. Everything I threw today is not competitive.”

With Jordan Zimmermann back to work after missing a start with a groin strain (he starts Friday), and Shane Greene finishing his rehab work at Triple-A (4 2/3 innings, one run, five strikeouts Tuesday), it seems unlikely the Tigers can afford to keep giving him the ball every five days.

Especially with left-handers Matt Boyd — who starts Thursday in a make-up game against the Yankees — and Daniel Norris about finished with their apprenticeship.

Or can they?

Sanchez is still on the books for $16.8 million this season and next. With his service time in the big leagues, he could refuse a demotion to the minor leagues. And the question has to be asked, would he be any more helpful working in relief at this point?

This is the decision the Tigers desperately wanted to avoid, hoping Sanchez, who was the American League ERA leader in 2013, would return to form after struggling last season.

It’s not happening.

“I don’t think he’s real confident on the mound right now,”  Ausmus said. “We’re going to have to make an adjustment with Sanchy. Something has to be done. We need better starts from him. He knows we need better starts than that.”

Ausmus said no decision had been made whether to remove him from the rotation, though one could be made soon.

“That’s not something I control,” Sanchez said.

The Tigers will most likely have to make a roster move Wednesday. Saupold, who gave up three runs in the fourth, left the game after one batter in the sixth. He injured his right groin reaching awkwardly across his body trying to catch an errant throw at first base from Cabrera.

“We don’t know the extent of the injury,” Ausmus said. “There is a chance there will be a roster move.”

It could be that Greene will be reinstated off the disabled list and Saupold either placed on the DL or sent back to Toledo.

Center fielder Cameron Maybin was removed from the game after the seventh, but that was precautionary. He irritated his left wrist during his final at-bat.

“It happens once in a while,” said Maybin, whose wrist was fractured in spring training. “I fouled a couple off and it started barking. Brad wanted me to come out so I can be ready tomorrow. I feel OK.

“Just treatment and put the ball in play. Don’t swing and miss. When I hit it hard, it feels fine. When I swing and miss, it grabs a little. Science.”

The Tigers have now lost four straight. In this house of horrors in Anaheim they have lost nine straight. They are 4-19 since 2010 here.

Twitter: @cmccosky