Anibal Sanchez set a new career high with 17 strikeouts while throwing eight shutout innings, Matt Tuiasosopo clubbed a three-run home run and drove in five RBIs as the Detroit Tigers crushed the high-flying Atlanta Braves 10-0.
The 17 punch-outs by Sanchez was also a new Tigers franchise high, breaking Mickey Lolich's record of 16, set in 1969.
Braves starter Paul Maholm (3-2) was tagged for ten hits and eight runs in 3 2/3 innings, suffering his second loss of the season. The victorious Sanchez raised his record to 3-1, lowering his ERA to 1.34 in the process.
The Tigers' bats have been slumping since mid-West Coast swing, but broke out with a vengeance tonight, clubbing 15 hits against three Braves pitchers. Along with Tuiasosopo's big game, Torii Hunter and Victor Martinez chimed in with three hits each, Martinez adding two RBIs.
Though Sanchez was on his game from the first batter he faced, no one could have predicted he would have a record-breaking night. But he did and it was spectacular!
Mid-second inning, Sanchez had set down the first four Braves in order, three by strikeout. The term being used was "dealing."
But Chris Johnson, who entered the game hitting .397, showed why he was leading the National League in hitting when he laced Sanchez's mid-80s breaking ball past Matt Tuiasosopo in left for a double. With two down, .150-hitting B.J. Upton walked.
Even though Sanchez allowed a pair of base runners, his stuff remained filthy. He recorded his fifth strikeout to end the threat, Juan Francisco waving weakly at an inside breaking ball in the dirt.
The Tigers had their first threat of the night in the bottom half of the second. But Maholm was able to pitch out of the jam, helped by the Tigers' biggest ongoing issue -- their inability to hit with runners in scoring position.
Fielder led off with a base on balls. Victor Martinez's fly ball found the gap in right center, the double sending Fielder to third base.
The Braves played the infield back, and Jhonny Peralta grounded to short. One of the best defensive shortstops in baseball, Andrelton Simmons, showed why he has that reputation. He made a back-hand stop, but instead of taking the easy out at first, he threw a strike to home. The Tigers had Fielder leaving on contact, but the big man got an awful jump. He was out by five feet, Evan Gattis laying down the tag.
The play at the plate (not close enough to call it bang-bang) left any shot at a rally hanging on the vine. Tuiasosopo struck out, Brayan Pena bouncing out 4-3.
Simmons bit the Tigers with his glove in the second, then bit them again with his bat in the third. The Braves second-year shortstop doubled with one down, then took third on Pena's passed ball.
The Tigers repaid Sanchez by taking the lead in the bottom half of the inning.
Omar Infante, one of the few Tigers who swung the bat well in the Royals series, sparked a four-run rally. He led off with a hard ground ball under the glove of Johnson, then turned a single into a hustle double, beating J. Upton's throw.
Infante took third on a ground ball, then scored on Torii Hunter's single, Tigers up 1-0. But the inning was just getting started.
After a Cabrera walk and Fielder strikeout, Martinez channeled his 2011 self and looped a two-out RBI single to center, Hunter scoring to raise the Tigers' lead to 2-0.
Maholm pitched himself into deeper trouble by uncorking a wild pitch, moving both runners into scoring position, then loading the bases by walking Peralta.
Tuiasosopo made Malholm pay for his mistakes, bouncing a 2-2 changeup through the left side for a two-RBI single to left, Cabrera and (surprisingly) Martinez scoring. Peralta and Tuiasosopo would advance into scoring position on J. Upton's off-line throw, earning an error for his effort.
Maholm would get out of the inning without further damage when Pena flied out to left center.
The Tigers would take a 4-0 lead into the top of the fourth. Sanchez tossed an uneventful inning, helped by Cabrera starting an inning-ending 5-4-3 double play. Yes, an around-the-horn double play was turned by the Tigers. I'm still stunned.
You know what happens next, the player who makes a big defensive play comes to the plate in the next half inning. That it was Cabrera was a plus, as his RBI single helped ignite another rally. A rally which "Big Squggles" Tuiasosopo would have the big hit, Maholm would be knocked out of the game and the Tigers would stretch their lead into double digits.
Yes, a double-digit lead. Against the team with the best record in baseball.
One down, Jackson singled to center.
A still smoking-hot-at-the-plate Hunter singled to shallow center, Jackson taking second.
Cabrera celebrated his defensive brilliance with an RBI single to right center. Jackson scored, Hunter racing to third.
Fielder grounded out to second, Uggla forced to take the out at first base when he bobbled the ball, driving home Hunter.
Thumbing his nose at both luck and BABIP, Martinez ripped a double to left to plate Cabrera.
Having seen enough and with the game in a death spiral, Braves skipper Fredi González called on rght-handed reliever Anthony Varvaro to take over for Maholm. Didn't matter. The death spiral would become a huge crash.
Peralta walked, setting the table for Tuiasosopo. Big Squiggles promptly cleared the table, greeting Varvaro by crushing his first home run of the season, a long, no-doubt-about-it, three-run bomb into the left-field seats.
BAM. Tigers led 10-0.
Four innings remained to be played. But with Sanchez absolutely dealing and holding a ten-run lead, the game was in the bag.
Sanchez was getting nastier as the game proceeded. He stuck out two more Braves as part of a 1-2-3 sixth, having retired seven in a row and raising his strikeout total to a dozen.
Rod Allen broke out the video game quotes in the seventh as Sanchez tied his career high in strikeouts. Freddie Freeman and Johnson would both go down swinging, strikeouts 13 and 14 for Sanchez.
Sanchez set a new personal best in the eighth inning when he struck out Francisco for the third time, number 15 on the night.
Reed Johnson was punch-out number 16.
After allowing a single to Simmons, Comerica Park exploded when Sanchez set the franchise record on his 122nd and last pitch of the night, Uggla the 17th strikeout victim. Sanchez would leave to a well-deserved standing ovation, the crowd having witnessed team history.
Bruce Rondon would get the call to finish out the game. He would do so while showing why the Tigers believe he's the closer of the future.
Rondon opened some eyes when he stuck out Freeman on three pitches, the last with 101-mile-per-hour heat. Freeman earned the Golden Sombrero for his efforts.
The big rookie would shut the door in fine fashion, tossing a 1-2-3 ninth to end a fun night of baseball at Comerica Park.
A boring win for the Tigers. I LOVE BORING.
With the victory, the Tigers continue their tango with .500 and are back above the break-even mark at 11-10 on the season. They hold on to second place in the Central, just one game back of the Royals.
Despite the loss, the Braves hold on to first place in the NL East, the Nationals hovering a game back. The Braves have now dropped two in a row, falling to 15-7.
In game two of the three-game weekend series in Detroit, right-hander Kris Medlen (1-2) will take the mound for the Braves, while hard-luck Rick Porcello (0-2) gets the ball for the Tigers. Game time is 1:08 PM Saturday.