Anibal proving he has more to offer in 2018

Sanchez replicates success of last start with 6 innings of 1-run ball

Anibal proving he has more to offer in 2018

DETROIT -- The 115th and final pitch from Anibal Sanchez on Wednesday was a 92-mph fastball on the outside corner, freezing Matt Chapman to end the sixth inning and strand a runner. As Sanchez walked to the dugout and received the obligatory handshake from manager Brad Ausmus, a scattering of the crowd at Comerica Park stood up to applaud him for his second straight outing of six innings and one run allowed, and probably for more than that.

"When I was out of the game, I just noticed that today probably could be my last outing as a Tiger at Comerica Park," Sanchez said.

If it turns out Wednesday was Sanchez's last time walking off the mound here in a Tigers uniform, he did it his way. He took a hard-luck loss in a 3-2 defeat to the A's, but he picked up a measure of satisfaction.

"I can say the time has been flying," Sanchez said. "It's been almost six years over here. I would love to stay here for next year, but in the end I don't control that. But I feel really good: great teammates, great people, great teams."

Ausmus discusses 3-2 loss

Sanchez arrived as a non-waiver Trade Deadline boost for a 2012 team that made the World Series, then re-signed as a free agent, won an American League ERA title in '13 and set a franchise record with a 17-strikeout game. He had flashes of brilliance in ensuing years, then battled injuries.

Sanchez has been a project for the last two years, trying to stay healthy and regain his younger form. He seemingly reached rock bottom when he accepted a Minor League assignment to Triple-A Toledo earlier this year, only to work his way back into the Tigers' rotation.

"I had a gut feeling it was something I had to do," Sanchez said. "Most players probably wouldn't make that decision. They'd probably stay there and continue to see what's going on. For me, I think it was another opportunity to be fresh and back to where we started. And I made it again."

Now, as the Tigers embark on a long-term rebuild, one of the last remaining members of that World Series team is trying to prove he can still pitch. Sanchez's last couple starts are giving him a case: He has allowed two runs on nine hits over 12 innings with four walks and 19 strikeouts.

Sanchez K's Semien

"I'd be shocked if he didn't pitch again somewhere," Ausmus said. "I think he's showing he's got a little bit left in the tank. And he's getting strikeouts to boot."

Wednesday's story was the same as his last outing. Though his strikeout total dropped, he actually drew more swing-and-misses Wednesday (19) than last week against the White Sox (17). Again, the split-finger changeup accounted for nine whiffs Wednesday.

"Whenever we got into a tough spot, righty or lefty, he had really good command of his changeup," catch John Hicks said. "The action was really good."

Said Sanchez: "The way that it moves is when I'm on top of the ball with my fingers, that ball instead of just going straight goes a little bit down."

What helps make it more effective, Ausmus said, is the way Sanchez uses his fastball to set it up. He's not throwing as hard, averaging just over 91 mph, but he's hitting his spots.

Sanchez escapes trouble in 2nd

"I was behind in the count most of the time, but I didn't want to put anything right in the middle for those guys," Sanchez said. "I know they've got power, and they can run. I tried to put the ball down and away for most of those guys."

Sanchez is on track for two more starts on the road -- first at Kansas City, then the season finale at Minnesota. The Tigers have a $16 million option for next year, but with rebuilding underway, they're expected to decline. They could still pursue him as a free agent, and could use a veteran to eat innings for a young rotation.

Sanchez doesn't want to worry about that now.

"Everything that I've done for the last two outings, I want to keep in my mind," Sanchez said. "I've always been talking about muscle memory, and I just want to keep that for the offseason."

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.