Tigers' Sanchez delivers parting gift in final home start

Lynn Henning
The Detroit News

Detroit — Consolation prizes are always welcomed by a team long ago dismissed from playoff thoughts, and the Tigers got at least one lovely parting gift Wednesday in a 3-2 loss to the A’s at Comerica Park.

Anibal Sanchez pitched well. Again.

He followed up his previous 11-strikeout start with a superb six innings of work against the A’s, striking out eight, and allowing only three hits and a single run.

“I’d be shocked if he didn’t pitch again somewhere,” said Tigers manager Brad Ausmus, who’s aware the Tigers and Sanchez are almost certain to part ways at the end of this season. “He’s got a lot left in the tank, and he’s getting some strikeouts, to boot.”

Sanchez has struck out 19 batters in two starts spanning 12 innings. Not shabby for a 33-year-old pitcher who was so out of alignment earlier this year he needed, by his choice, to spend time retooling at Triple-A Toledo.

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Sanchez was asked afterward if he and the Tigers might somehow team up again in 2018. He is under contract, but there are catches: The Tigers owe him $16 million if they care to retain him, which isn’t happening. At the very least, they will pay him $5 million on a buyout.

Either way, a renewal of vows seems straight from dreamland.

“I would love to, but I don’t control that,” said Sanchez, who was nicked for a lone run in the third inning on back-to-back doubles, one of which might have been caught if Nicholas Castellanos weren’t adjusting to a new position, right field.

Sanchez’s strengths Wednesday were a couple of old standbys.

“It’s been the fastball command and the change-up, for me,” Ausmus said, reflecting on Sanchez’s back-to-back beauties.

Sanchez might have avoided the loss but for a sour seventh inning from reliever Daniel Stumpf.

With the A’s ahead, 1-0, Stumpf allowed a couple of hits, the last of which was Marcus Semien’s long homer into the left-field bleachers.

The Tigers scored twice in the ninth, but they left the tying run on second to seal a loss for Sanchez in what almost assuredly was, for he and the Tigers, his final Comerica Park start.

Rally time

With the A’s en route to what seemed an easy series sweep, the Tigers pulled another of their occasional ninth-inning capers.

They got a leadoff walk in the ninth from Efren Navarro, who romped to third on Mikie Mahtook’s double to left field. Both runners scored on Andrew Romine’s hard single to right.

Romine would have been delighted to score a third and tying run had his mates cooperated.

But no.

Jose Iglesias followed with a slow ground ball to short that erased Romine at second. Then, after a wild pitch sent Iglesias to second, Alex Presley struck out.

The Tigers now sit at 62-90 with 10 games remaining in 2017.

The Tigers out-hit the A’s, nine to six, but their only extra-bases poke apart from Mahtook’s double came in the first when Jeimer Candelario drove a double against the right-center field wall.

Candelario later added a single, which was as much as the Tigers got from seven additional batters.

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Rising relievers

Joe Jimenez pitched the eighth and looked very good: two strikeouts on two final-strike fastballs of 96 and 95 mph.

It was a noteworthy effort, given that Jimenez was carrying with him Wednesday extreme dread over Hurricane Maria and its devastation of Jimenez’s native Puerto Rico where family and friends reside.

“Obviously, a lot of things are happening there,” he said. “I’m just trying to do my job.”

Another rookie reliever also was smooth Wednesday: Zac Reininger pitched a 1-2-3 ninth.

Ausmus mentioned that Reininger was “getting more comfortable” and didn’t have the “wide-eyed” look that turned some of Reininger’s early work into borderline trauma.

Asked where on a scale of 1-to-10 his nerves were in his first game, last month against the White Sox, Reininger said: “Probably an 8 or a 9.”

But, of late, his mind has cleared and his fastball-slider combination has been clicking.

“Today I was probably a 4 or a 5,” he said, speaking of the nerves scale. “I’ve learned I have to get out there and slow down, take a breath. I’m just trying to throw strikes and get ahead of hitters.”

Next up

The Tigers will begin a four-game series Thursday night against the Twins  their final home games of 2017.

Jordan Zimmermann will make his first start since being shelved by a recurrence of neck troubles.

The Tigers aren’t saying who will start Friday night’s game, although Daniel Norris appears most likely to be tabbed.