"And it doesn't hurt to get the monkey off your back on the road."
Regarding that monkey, Sanchez had not thrown a quality start away from Comerica Park this season before Tuesday night. He had gone 2-7 with an 8.12 ERA away, compared with a 4-5 record and 3.92 ERA at home. In his last road start, he allowed eight runs in four innings to the Rangers.
But against the Twins on Tuesday, he only ran into serious trouble in a two-run third inning and otherwise only allowed a homer to Brian Dozier in an efficient 94-pitch outing. Particularly from the fourth inning onward, Sanchez focused on keeping his pitch count down and getting ahead in counts in order to lengthen his outing.
The seven innings tied a May 4 start in Cleveland for his longest road start of the season. It was only his fourth time completing the seventh inning in 2016, and his second time in a row.
"All the time, when the pitchers can go seven innings, it's good for the team and good for the bullpen, and that's what I try to do," Sanchez said. "Pitch deep into games all the time, and I try to do it in all my outings, but thank God that it happened today."
Ausmus believes that Sanchez's improved fastball command, particularly up in the zone, has been key to his success over the last month. He noted that Sanchez's fastballs have found a little more life and don't sink as much as hitters expect them to, which has resulted in worse contact.
"It's got good finish and it's staying up a bit higher," Ausmus said. "The hitters see it and think it's hittable, but it kind of stays in that plane, and they swing under it, foul it off or pop it up."
The Tigers have won only two of Sanchez's nine starts since he rejoined the rotation in July, but with all signs pointing up, Ausmus is hopeful that the veteran right-hander can continue to improve and bolster the injured rotation.
"He's pitched well, really," Ausmus said. "In the last month, other than the Texas outing, he's been outstanding."