Anibal Sanchez was cruising.
He was in control, pitching with command, allowing no hits, striking out many more than that when the fourth inning hit.
And when it did, the Detroit Tigers’ right-hander started getting hit.
A Brian Dozier home run. A single. A walk. Another single. Another home run, this one, a three-run shot.
“Not every start is going to be a great start,” manager Brad Ausmus said a night earlier. “The timing isn’t great because we’re in September, but there’s going to be days where our starters don’t have great outings, even in the next three weeks, so we hope that when that happens next time, we overcome it with offense.”
This time, they did. The Tigers responded to Sanchez allowing a five-spot in the fourth with four runs of their own to re-take the lead. They took care of business against a mediocre starting pitcher and beat a bad Twins team late, 9-6, tonight at Comerica Park.
Miguel Cabrera provided the push, with a solo home run to left-centerfield in the bottom of the seventh inning. It was Cabrera’s 33rd home run of the season. Of those, 17 have tied the game or given the Tigers the lead.
Lifeless the first two games of the series, the Tigers came out swinging against Twins right-hander Tyler Duffey. Ian Kinsler and Cameron Maybin doubled to lead-off the game and stake Sanchez an early lead. Kinsler hit an RBI single in the second to double the lead.
Sanchez struck out the side in the first inning and five total until imploding in the fourth inning, starting when Dozier hit his 41st home run to leftfield. Three batters later, Kurt Suzuki went to leftfield and the Tigers were down three runs.
They would respond in earnest.
In the bottom half of the fourth, Andrew Romine hit a RBI single before Kinsler and Maybin hit back-to-back RBI triples to tie the game. Before Kinsler’s triple, the Tigers had gone since Aug. 6 since tripling.
Maybin’s triple chased Twins starter Tyler Duffey. No matter.
One batter later, Cabrera tied the game with a single to centerfield.
Ausmus elected to try and squeeze at least one more inning out of Sanchez but paid for it when he walked the lead-off hitter, Byron Buxton, in the fifth inning. Buxton sped from first on a Dozier double to tie the game.
Sanchez threw four-plus innings, allowing six runs on five hits. He struck out two and walked seven. The Tigers threw five scoreless innings of relief, highlighted by Alex Wilson’s two hitless innings. Francisco Rodriguez picked up his 42nd save of the season in the ninth inning.
Kinsler recorded his 18th career four-hit game, driving in three runs, including an insurance run in the eighth inning. He fell a home run short of his second career cycle.
The Tigers are now a game behind the Blue Jays, who were passed by the Orioles, for the second AL wild card spot. They will end a seven-game home stand on Thursday afternoon.