Leyland said that, because Scherzer is coming off shoulder and ankle problems, he opted to give him the extra day in the best-of-five series.
"I think it's pretty obvious that Verlander -- rested -- was going to open up the first game," Leyland said. "With Scherzer's situation, it was also pretty obvious that Fister was going to pitch the second game. And where you get into a little bit of dilemma there, as I mentioned, is the Scherzer situation, coming off a little bit of the [injured] ankle and the shoulder.
"We decided that that would be the best way to go. And it would also, just by pitching Sanchez in front of Scherzer, would keep Sanchez from being off too, too long. I know it's only one day, but it's a little help."
Scherzer missed his next-to-last start of the regular because of nagging soreness in his right shoulder and then twisted his right ankle on Tuesday night at Kansas City when the Tigers celebrated on the field after winning their second consecutive AL Central title.
Originally, Leyland was going to hold Scherzer out of Wednesday's season finale, but he wound up throwing four innings against the Royals, allowing no runs and three hits, while walking two and striking out three.
Sanchez last pitched on Sunday at Minnesota and didn't earn the decision in a 2-1 Tigers win. He went 6 1/3 innings, giving a run on seven hits with a walk and four whiffs.
Verlander, Fister and Scherzer were 5-2 in 10 postseason starts last October when the Tigers defeated the Yankees in a five-game ALDS and lost in six games to the Rangers in the AL Championship Series. This will be the first career postseason start for Sanchez, whom the Tigers obtained from the Marlins in a four-player trade this past July 23.
"We figured we didn't want Sanchez to sit too long," Leyland said about his thought process. "So we took advantage of the Scherzer situation by having him follow Sanchez. Then we have Sanchez pitch a day earlier.
"So that's why that decision was made. It has nothing to do with ballparks or rotation, anything like that. And we thought with Scherzer, although he came out of the game the other night really good, it's just a little precautionary measure to give him the extra day. I think it is probably smart."