DETROIT -- The hottest team in baseball ran into the stingiest pitcher on the Tigers on Thursday. While Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer were watching from the dugout, Anibal Sanchez all but silenced the Royals without even getting a strikeout.
"I don't know if that's the first time," Sanchez said. "I don't remember if I've done that before."
He hadn't. Never in Sanchez's previous 185 Major League starts had he not fanned a single batter. As effectively as he held down the Royals' offense -- allowing one run on five hits and a walk over seven innings in the Tigers' 2-1 victory -- his feat wasn't just rare for him.
The last time a Tigers pitcher delivered seven innings in a game without a strikeout, Doug Fister was making his Detroit debut with seven quality innings, no walks and no strikeouts against Texas on Aug. 3, 2011.
The last time it happened when a Tigers pitcher threw seven or more innings of one-run ball or better, Verlander was a rookie. He tossed eight shutout innings on six hits against the Twins with no walks and no strikeouts on May 17, 2006.
"That's the rarity," manager Brad Ausmus said. "[Sanchez] has the ability to make batters miss the barrel, to get a lot of balls off the end or off the hands. He didn't get the swing and misses."
It wasn't just strikeouts. Sanchez induced only five swings and misses in any count over his 107-pitch outing, tying his season low. He hadn't had that few in an outing of 100 pitches or more since Aug. 13, 2012, when he induced just two over 102 pitches in Minnesota.
"You know what? I threw a lot of good pitches for strikeouts," Sanchez said, "and they swing a lot. They [make contact with] everything."
The Royals still had their fair share of two-strike counts, 12 of them out of 27 batters Sanchez faced. Those at-bats, however, resulted in a lone single, six groundouts and just three balls hit out of the infield.
"Sanchez did a great job of keeping them off balance and getting them to swing at his pitches," catcher Bryan Holaday said.
There was a flip side to that stat, too. Just six Royals worked their way into three-ball situations, five of them full counts. The one exception was a four-pitch walk to Mike Moustakas in Sanchez's seventh and final inning.
"Every time we see him, we see him on top of his game," Billy Butler said. "Granted, he didn't have any strikeouts today. That's just the offense putting balls in play, and we're hitting balls hard. We hit some balls today that just didn't find holes."
The performance improved Sanchez to 4-0 with a 1.93 ERA in six starts since coming off the disabled list in mid-May. By comparison, Tigers starters as a group are 10-15 with a 5.34 ERA in that stretch.
"He's been rock solid, actually, since he came off the DL," Ausmus said. "He's got so many weapons. He's got so many ways to get hitters out. He's been a little more efficient, too."