Right-hander says home runs came on pitches he felt good about
By Keegan Matheson
TORONTO -- The long ball has plagued Anibal Sanchez all season, and that story didn't change on Sunday in Toronto.
Sanchez met some early adversity against the Blue Jays in the 8-2 loss, loading the bases and allowing a run to cross in the first, but quickly settled down and looked to be finding a real groove. It came undone in the fourth and fifth, though, and Sanchez was pulled after 4 2/3 innings with seven runs allowed on 12 hits.
With Sanchez's average four-seam fastball velocity at 90.74 mph, down from 93.11 in his great 2013 season, the margin for error seems to be shrinking as he looks to build some momentum late in the year.
"I don't know if there's one pitch he needs to get back," manager Brad Ausmus said. "One thing he used to be able to do when he had a couple more miles an hour is pitch up. Now that line is a lot finer. If you don't get up high enough, it's potentially a home run. You add a couple extra miles an hour, or 3 mph, it's a little easier to make a mistake up there and get away with it. It boils down to command more than anything else."
Sanchez maintained a sense of optimism after the game, though. The hit total ran high, but a handful of balls snuck through the infield, and Blue Jays rookie outfielder Teoscar Hernandez was a one-man wrecking crew. The right-hander praised the 24-year-old after the game for hitting a pair of home runs on pitches that he actually felt good about.
"I felt really good today," Sanchez said. "I feel that I have really good command with every pitch I threw early in the game. When I faced Hernandez, I think the first homer was fastball away, a little bit up. I don't want to say it was a bad pitch. The second was low, and he hit it to the other side."
With Sanchez's ERA now sitting at 7.43, he has a handful of starts to bounce back as the Tigers look to 2018 and beyond. Any potential turnaround has been derailed by some bad luck recently, too. Sanchez hit the disabled list briefly with a hamstring issue in August and left his last start after just five pitches when he took a line drive off his calf.
Sanchez's home run rate has been climbing since the beginning of 2015, and it's possible he will set a career high despite a low number of innings this season. After allowing 30 home runs over 153 1/3 innings in 2016, the 33-year-old has now allowed 25 over 82 1/3 innings this season.
Keegan Matheson is a reporter for MLB.com based in Toronto and covered the Tigers on Sunday. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.