Anibal can't shake home run bug

Anibal can't shake home run bug

DETROIT -- In uncharacteristic fashion, Anibal Sanchez smacked his glove with frustration as the Twins' Max Kepler sent a two-out fastball over the right-field wall in the fifth inning of Friday's 9-4 Tigers loss at Comerica Park.

A couple of hours later, Sanchez let a cooler head prevail as he explained that he's not dealing with any mental or mechanical issues on the mound. Still, his problem is clear: home runs.

It took the Twins two swings to outscore the Tigers, though they later added on. A three-run homer by Eddie Rosario in the fourth inning and a two-run shot by Kepler in the fifth gave Minnesota a big enough lead to hold, while highlighting the most glaring issue of Sanchez's season.

Kepler's two-run home run

"I mean, it's five runs so it hurts a lot," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. "Now you have to climb back into the game. It was kind of, on both home runs, similar to the game in Baltimore where the ball was up and they took advantage of it."

In his previous start, Aug. 6 at Baltimore, Sanchez allowed five home runs in three innings -- including back-to-back-to-back ones in the first. This season, he's allowed more home runs (21) than walks (20) in his 75 1/3 innings.

But the plethora of homers has only recently been reattached to Sanchez's reputation. When he began the year as a reliever, he was tagged for nine dingers in 21 innings (3.86 home runs per nine). Then he went to Triple-A Toledo in May to work back to a starting role, one he'd worked in almost exclusively for his previous 11 big league seasons. He emerged in Detroit a month later, allowing just one home run in his first four starts.

Now he's back to where he started, with 11 homers allowed in his past six outings. On Friday, it was a case of two elevated fastballs that Rosario and Kepler jumped on.

Rosario's three-run homer

What Sanchez is more concerned with is his pitching effort in tight situations. In the fifth, the Tigers were trailing just 3-1. Sanchez retired the first two batters, getting Jorge Polanco to hit a lineout before striking out Jason Castro.

Then Sanchez worked Brian Dozier to a full count and tried to finish him with a fastball on the payoff pitch. The pitch stayed up, Dozier dribbled it to third for an infield hit, and Kepler sent a ball to the seats in the next at-bat.

"I'm not like really, really happy with the outing today," Sanchez said. "I want to be more competitive out there, especially when you got two outs and Dozier got the ground infield hit. I want to pitch in that situation."

Sanchez walked none and threw 60 of his 91 pitches for strikes (65.9 percent). He still made it through six innings, which should be a sign of encouragement as the Tigers' bullpen continues to waver. If he figures out how to limit the long ball, the veteran can regain his effectiveness as a starter.

"Actually, other than those two home runs he pitched pretty well," Ausmus said. "But the damage was done."

Jordan Horrobin is a reporter for based in Detroit. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.