Anibal Sanchez didn't have his best stuff today, walking four hitters in seven innings of work. He had to battle his way through a couple of rough spots in the third and fourth innings, but was able to hold the A's to one run with some well-timed pitches.
Situation: Bottom of the third inning, men on first and third, two outs. Sanchez falls behind left-hander Seth Smith, who sported a .349 career batting average against the Tigers heading into today's game. On the 3-1 pitch, Sanchez throws a beautiful curveball that catches the bottom of the strike zone.
On the 3-2 pitch, Sanchez blows a 94 mile per hour fastball by Smith, who was fooled into looking for something off-speed after the previous pitch. The inning ends with the score still 8-0.
Situation: bottom of the fourth inning, runners on second and third, one out. Sanchez falls behind Josh Donaldson, but freezes him with a 3-2 fastball at the bottom of the strike zone.
PitchFX labels the pitch as a strike, but home plate umpire Sam Holbrook disagrees. Smith walks, loading the bases.
Situation: bottom of the fourth inning, men on first and second, two outs. After Derek Norris hits a sacrifice fly to left field to get the A's on the scoreboard, Eric Sogard works his way to yet another 3-2 count against Sanchez. The Venezuelan righty freezes him with a curveball on the outside corner, ending the threat.
Ideally, Sanchez would avoid getting into these jams in the first place, but it was nice to see him battle through a couple of tough spots today, even with the lopsided scoreline. Having the confidence to throw his breaking ball for strikes and work through these tough spots is why the Tigers deemed him worthy of the $80 million contract he signed this offseason.