DETROIT -- The wall is out there in Anibal Sanchez's starts. It could be the third time through the order, or the sixth inning. In Tuesday's case, it was the 100-pitch mark, after which Starling Marte's two-run homer broke up the scoreless outing.
It was a blip in the eventual 8-2 Tigers victory, thanks to add-on runs. Sanchez is 2-0 in as many starts this season, and he has taken scoreless performances into the sixth inning both times. That's more than many would've expected when he was working his way back to pitching in Spring Training due to triceps inflammation. He'll make his run at the wall as he builds up starts. For now, though, what he's doing is plenty good enough for the Tigers to win.
"I feel really good," Sanchez said. "Late in the game, I felt more comfortable than earlier in the game. Like everyone knows, I'm working on my mechanics and that's put pressure on me earlier in the games. But after that I feel really good."
The fact that Sanchez got into the sixth inning with fewer than 100 pitches against the same Pirates lineup that chewed up Justin Verlander a day earlier might be a feat in itself. Pittsburgh's hitters seemingly shrugged off Verlander's secondary stuff and sat on the fastball early before fouling off everything later. Against Sanchez, they couldn't.
"I watched the whole game," Sanchez said. "My preparation is to watch what they do, what they're trying to do with runners in scoring position or early in the innings."
Whenever Sanchez needed to make a pitch, whether it was a jam like the second inning or the times he was behind in the count later, he had his choice. His sinker induced a David Freese double play to end the third as part of a run of 10 consecutive batters retired.
Marte saw a four-pitch sequence of fastball, slider, sinker, splitter leading off the fourth inning, fouling off the first two and striking out on the last. Francisco Cervelli took a called third strike on a slider after fouling off a splitter in the next at-bat.
"He did a good job using all his pitches," manager Brad Ausmus said.
Sanchez was an 0-2 pitch away from retiring the top of the Pirates' lineup in order in the sixth. After striking out Matt Joyce, he went from a 92-mph fastball to 72- and 67-mph offspeed pitches to fan Andrew McCutchen. He missed a breaking ball to Freese, who hit a grounder that Nick Castellanos stopped on a dive but barely missed throwing him out. A third consecutive fastball to Marte ended up deep to left field for a two-run homer, then a walk to Cervelli ended Sanchez's outing.
Sanchez will get another shot, but he'd also like to get more out of his 100 pitches.
"I've got to keep working on my speed and my velocity on my fastball," he said. "Everything is coming right now. The weather is a little tough up here, but as soon as it gets warm let's see what's going to happen."
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.