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Tigers 6, Royals 4: Anibal Sanchez's strong start backed by Alex Avila, Miguel Cabrera

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The offense reemerged in time for the Tigers to split the series with the Royals, placing Detroit back in first place in the AL Central.

Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

After David Price righted the ship on Saturday for a Detroit Tigers team seemingly run aground of both solid pitching and offense, Anibal Sanchez erased the possibility of a rebound from the Kansas City Royals on Sunday. The Tigers won 6-4 over the Royals as they split the series, retook first place, and outlasted a shaky outing from Tom Gorzelanny.

Sanchez (2-3) was dealing, retiring the first 15 batters he faced. He had all four of his pitches working and constantly kept Royals batters off-balance. It wasn't until the seventh that Sanchez ran into trouble and allowed two runs. A one-out walk and a double were both followed by a sacrifice fly and a two-out RBI single. Sanchez got a groundout-forceout to end the inning, but not before the Royals got on the board.

While Sanchez came back out for the eighth inning, a one-out single ended his day at 104 pitches. Gorzelanny was brought in to face the lefties in the Royals' order, and he allowed two more runs, one of which was charged to Sanchez. Despite giving up three runs, Sanchez gave up just four hits in all, walking one and striking out four in the process.

Of note, while it won't be reflected on the scoresheet, at one point it appeared as if Gorzelanny would escape the eighth with just one run surrendered. With two strikes, Gorzelanny threw a pitch that landed well in the strike zone. He started to walk toward the dugout but did not get the call from home plate umpire Dale Scott. Kendrys Morales came back with an RBI single to make it a 6-4 game in favor of the Tigers.

As for the Tigers' offense, they built their six-run lead with runs in the second, fourth, and fifth innings. Alex Avila plated the club's first four runs on two singles off starter Jeremy Guthrie, including an opposite field knock, which drove in the first run of the day. Miguel Cabrera continued to maul Royals' pitching with a two-run shot in the fifth and had three hits on the day. Yoenis Cespedes also finished 2-for-4 with two runs scored, one of three Tigers batter to finish with multiple hits.

Meanwhile, Joakim Soria did exactly what he's done all year, shut down the ninth. The Tigers closer retired all three batters faced in 14 pitches, earning his 10th save of the year. The save also marked Soria's first save in Kansas City since he was a member of the Royals in 2011.

ROARS:

Anibal Sanchez: The lone survivor from the Tigers' "big four" starters from Opening Day last year, Sanchez was dominant for seven innings before running into trouble in the eighth. His final line of 7.1 innings and three earned runs belied exactly how good he was today.

Alex Avila: Not only did his two singles plate the team's first four runs, but he called an excellent game for Sanchez. As a rule of thumb, Avila's greatest contributions are always invisible to the casual fan's eye.

Miguel Cabrera: He's so good that his home runs are often afterthoughts. Without his home run in the sixth the story is instead how the Royals tied the game against Gorzelanny.

Joakim Soria: Once again locked down the ninth inning, maintaining a lead and ensuring that the Royals would be unable to take the game, or the series. His 10 saves for the season are tied for the MLB lead with Mets' closer Jeurys Familia, both who are perfect thus far in 2015.

HISSES:

Anthony Gose: The Tigers' leadoff man went 0-for-4 against Jeremy Guthrie.

Tom Gorzelanny: Some of the blame may be attributable to poor strike calls by the home plate umpire, but Gorzelanny's outing was less than solid nonetheless. What was a 6-1 game when Sanchez departed with a runner on second quickly became a two-run game, and a save situation for Soria.

J.D. Martinez: Continues his early-season struggles at the plate, finishing 0-for-4 with two strikeouts, the only Tigers batter to strikeout multiple times on Sunday.

STREAKS AND STATS:

  • Miguel Cabrera's home run was the 396th of his career. The homer put him at 56th on the all-time list, tying him with Joe Carter.
  • Anibal Sanchez made his 200th career start today. He's the seventh Venezuelan in MLB history to start 200 games on the mound.

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