ANAHEIM -- The Tigers have watched opponents pitch around their MVP hitter, Miguel Cabrera, for the last few years. On Friday, they opted not to do the same with the Angels' version, Albert Pujols, and it arguably cost them.
In that case, Detroit manager Jim Leyland said, it was a sign of respect for Anibal Sanchez more than any disrespect for Pujols.
Sanchez was facing Pujols for the fourth time in the seventh inning with two outs and Luis Jimenez on third base. Leyland had left-hander Darin Downs warming up to face Josh Hamilton, who was on deck.
"I just felt like Sanchez had pitched well enough that he should be out there," Leyland said. "I could've walked Pujols and brought in the lefty for Hamilton, but I thought Sanchez is one of my horses and he deserved a shot to get him out. That's why I let him pitch to him, knowing that he'd probably try to make a real good pitch. He just didn't quite do it."
Pujols hit an RBI single to extend the Angels' lead to 3-0. Downs entered and struck out Hamilton to end the inning.
That isn't a move Leyland would second guess. He brought it up himself on Saturday morning, but moreso as an opportunity to express his confidence in Sanchez.
"I felt it was more important to show confidence in my starting pitcher, one of my horses," Leyland said. "Did it turn out to be the wrong decision? I don't think so, because I did it for the purpose that I did it for. And I don't think it probably had anything to do with whether we won or lost the game. But it was an option.
"I took the option to show my starter that's going to start for me every five days all year long some confidence."