DETROIT -- After a poor start, Anibal Sanchez battled back for a moderate performance, but it was Miguel Cabrera who stole the show with a two-home run night. Even so, it wasn't enough and with a runner on third the Detroit Tigers snapped their four-game win streak, losing 7-5 to the Tampa Bay Rays.
Typically Sanchez collapses the third time he faces the batting order. Lately it's been two. On Friday, it was in the first inning. A leadoff home run and three straight hits didn't bode well for Sanchez, prompting an early mound visit from pitching coach Rich Dubee. His pitch location was all over and there was little to no movement. But after the visit, he got Kevin Kiermaier out on a looking strikeout, and retired 12 of the next 13 batters.
Considering it looked like an early hook for Sanchez, that he started the sixth was a minor miracle. Three 1-2-3 innings helped him last deeper into the game than expected, and he recovered well enough to give the team a chance at a win. The life on his pitches was back for four innings, and while Sanchez is still a semi-shell of his former self, it was as good a performance as the team could hope for, for now.
Sanchez couldn't get a batter out in the sixth, though, and after giving up a leadoff single and a walk, Sanchez's night ended at 90 pitches. With a tie game and two runners on, Kyle Ryan came oh so close to putting the threat away ... right until he hung an 85 mph cutter to Kiermaier, who dropped it into the right field corner for a bases-clearing triple. Given Ryan's track record of stranding inherited runners in the past (he'd only allowed two of 14 to score), it was the right move, regardless of Friday's result.
Whereas in the past Brad Ausmus has tried to stretch Sanchez out until it's far too late, he had a rather quick hook for the righty this time around. True, he could've gone to the bullpen in the sixth, but Sanchez had retired 10 straight and was cruising, so the gamble was fair. Unfortunately the bullpen wasn't as serviceable and repeated attempts by the Tigers offense -- and two massive Cabrera homers -- to come back were stomped on, dreams dashed.
Miguel Cabrera: Smoked an opposite field home run in the third inning, tying the game at 3-3. He'd also reached on an error in the first. But the bomb came later in the seventh, when he smoked a 431-foot shot to dead center onto the camera well. Oh, and he had a two-out single in the ninth.
Cameron Maybin: Reached base all three times and stole a base.
James McCann: He gets points on both sides of the plate. He gunned down a runner attempting to steal in the second and picked of another in the seventh (after a hit by pitch put the runner there), catching Souza napping. But he also drove in a run in the sixth, an RBI single when the bases were loaded. To say he's been struggling of late is a massive understatement, so the hit was huge.
9-1-2 hitters: Combined, Jose Iglesias, Ian Kinsler, and J.D. Martinez had just two hits -- a single by Kinsler in the third and an RBI single by McCann in the sixth. It was an ugly night for the bottom and top of the order.
Bullpen: It was not good. Horrible, actually. Two of the four runs allowed in the sixth and eighth were charged to the 'pen, but all four were given up by relievers. Kyle Ryan gave up a bases-clearing triple, and Alex Wilson surrendered a towering solo home run. Were it not for the bullpen, the Tigers would've been in the lead. Only Drew VerHagen was dependable.
STREAKS AND STATS:
- Justin Upton drew his ninth walk of the year in the second inning. Five Tigers players have more walks than Upton this year, and two more are tied with him, at nine.
- Miguel Cabrera hit his seventh home run of the year in the third and then his eighth in the seventh. He had hit 10 home runs by this date last year, to include three two-homer games. His last two-home game was on April 25.
- Cabrera's multi-homer game marked the 26th of his career, tying him with Willie Horton for third-most in club history. Hank Greenberg set the record, with 32. Cecil Fielder is second, with 29.
- Cameron Maybin stole his fourth base of the year in the fourth inning, marking the fourth straight game he's stolen a bag. The last Tiger to steal a base in four straight games was Rajai Davis on April 5-11, 2014. The longest stolen base record belongs to Ron LeFlore, who had a six-game stolen base streak on July 27 through Aug. 4, 1977.
- Since being activated from the disabled list, Maybin has gone 8-for-12 with four stolen bases, two walks, and only one strikeout in four games played. None of his hits have been for extra bases, though.
WIN PROBABILITY GRAPH: