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Detroit Tigers: Jumping on the Anibal Sanchez Train

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Aug 17, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Anibal Sanchez (19) kisses the ball in the first inning against the Kansas City Royals at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 17, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Anibal Sanchez (19) kisses the ball in the first inning against the Kansas City Royals at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports /
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After a rocky start and a stint in the bullpen, it appears that Detroit Tigers Anibal Sanchez is back.

Even though his numbers don’t show it, he has had a handful of solid starts. Of course, he is nowhere near his stellar league-leading ERA of 2.57 from 2013. But, his confidence appears to be back and so is the strike zone. This comes at just the right time for the Detroit Tigers.

Sanchez was removed from the starting rotation at the beginning of June after he earned a disappointing 6.67 ERA. In his first two months in the starting rotation, he gave up 14 home runs and 66 hits in 11 starts.

Since he returned to the rotation on July 5, he has improved. While he still isn’t an ace pitcher by any means, his performance on the mound has become less stressful for fans to watch. He has had a few bumps along the way, like the four home runs he allowed against the Texas Rangers a few starts ago. But, he has shown glimmers of greatness, like the game he pitched against the Kansas City Royals in his very next start.

Stellar Start Against the Royals

Aug 17, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Anibal Sanchez (19) and Kansas City Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer (35) embrace after the seventh inning at Comerica Park. Eric Hosmer broke up Anibal Sanchez
Aug 17, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Anibal Sanchez (19) and Kansas City Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer (35) embrace after the seventh inning at Comerica Park. Eric Hosmer broke up Anibal Sanchez /

Against the Royals on August 17, he struck out eight batters and held the World Series champs to nearly a no-hitter. He gave up only one hit that day and allowed no runs. The fans gave two well-deserved standing ovations. One when the no-hitter was broken in the seventh inning and the second one when he was done for the day. Unfortunately, the bullpen demolished his outstanding start by giving up four runs.

Other than the game against the Rangers, Sanchez’s numbers are not bad – especially in August. He has a 1.29 ERA in those three starts. He did allow three runs in today’s game against the Twins, but he did have his teammates offer solid run support so he could get the win.

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Sanchez’s Confidence is on the Rise

Other than allowing fewer runs, Sanchez really does appear to have more confidence when he’s pitching. It was clear at the beginning of the season that he looked nervous on the mound. He should have – his pitching was weak. Now that he has his mojo back, the Anibal Sanchez that fans have come to love is back. He looks like he is having fun. He is getting more swings and misses, which would give any pitcher more confidence.

Sanchez is reaching good speeds with his fastball. In August, he is averaging in the low 90s – around 91, but his change-up has been his winning pitch. He averages around 84 mph, but he gets whiffs about 30% of the time. Consider that Sanchez was getting 15% swings-and-misses with the change-up in May – the 30% is impressive.

Next: J.D. Martinez is On Fire

Now that every single game counts, Sanchez is one of the key pitchers on the team. It will be in the team’s best interest that he not pitch against too many aces, but he is solid against average starters. Fortunately, he is improving at just the right time.

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