"I don't know if he was getting tired. I don't know if he would say he's getting tired. But he really hadn't pitched past the fifth inning [this season]," manager Brad Ausmus said after a three-run White Sox rally sent the Tigers to a 3-1 loss Monday night at Comerica Park.
Sanchez didn't say he was tired. Even if he wasn't tired, he wasn't in a routine.
"I think it affected him," pitching coach Jeff Jones said. "It's nice for guys to get on a regular schedule."
Sanchez hadn't had that, either. His previous start came a day late thanks to a game postponed by freezing weather. Likewise, his first start was pushed back by a rainout.
Aside from a gorgeous night in Los Angeles a couple of weeks ago, Monday was the first time the weather actually worked in his favor. For six innings, he treated a crowd of 24,997 to a gem of an outing.
Then came the seventh, and Sanchez's command seemingly deserted him. Three doubles later, so did the lead. The White Sox, seemingly helpless against Sanchez for most of the night, struck big when the opportunity arrived.
"Everything happened so fast," Sanchez said. "I felt good today. I held the ball better than the last time. ... The seventh inning, for me, was just a couple of mistakes, high balls. They were aggressive all night. They swung at a lot of first pitches. They found a hole."
It was a different fate for him on a night when the first-pitch temperature was 77 degrees. It was no less cruel considering the outing he had going.
"It has happened many times," catcher Alex Avila said. "He was pitching really well. Nice location on a couple of pitches there, left them up and they made him pay for it."
Sanchez didn't allow a hit until Marcus Semien doubled down the left-field line to lead off the fourth inning. Instead of breaking out Chicago's offense, the hit just made Sanchez nastier, retiring the next nine batters while allowing only one ball out of the infield.
Most of those outs, too, were quick, allowing Sanchez to get through his second turn at the White Sox lineup efficiently. Though the rainouts and dearth of Spring Training work had limited his pitch count for most of the season, he had plenty of pitches left to at least think about eight innings, if not nine.
At this point last season, however, Sanchez already had two seven-inning gems on his record, delivering 113 and 114 pitches in those. He threw 110 pitches in that April 9 game against the Dodgers, but lasted just five innings because 63 of his pitches came in the first two frames.
Until Monday, efficiency hadn't been his strong suit.
"His pitch count wasn't high," Ausmus said, "but he hadn't been past the fifth inning, and [getting] up and down, up and down, can make a difference at times."
His margin, meanwhile, was thin. Though the Tigers loaded the bases with nobody out against John Danks in the second inning, they managed only one run from the rally, that coming on Alex Avila's groundout against the shift to score Torii Hunter.
Danks allowed only one other runner to reach scoring position, keeping the pressure on Sanchez to post zeros.
"He had a great changeup tonight just keeping guys off balance," White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. "That's the biggest thing --- he can locate better now and longer than he did before.
Once Conor Gillaspie doubled into the right-field corner to lead off the seventh for the middle of the order, the White Sox pounced.
Jose Abreu's double off a high full-count fastball wasn't the hardest-hit ball of his impressive rookie campaign, but it was placed about as well as he could've hoped, sending Hunter sprinting toward the right-field line to try to run it down.
"When I was sliding, it felt like I was across the foul line and the ball dropped in front of my glove," Hunter said. "It did, but I wasn't at the foul line, so I don't know if it was fair. Looked like it could've been fair, looked like it could've been foul by some angles."
A replay review proved inconclusive, leaving the call of a ground-rule double to stand.
Sanchez (0-2) recovered from a 2-0 count to strike out Adam Dunn, but Viciedo jumped his next pitch, a high sinker, sending it off the center-field fence on a hop to easily score Abreu and put Chicago in front, 2-1.
"I was trying to keep the ball down and see what happens," Sanchez said. "But they're hitting a lot, they swung all night, so they found my pitch in that inning."
Viciedo reached third on Alexei Ramirez's single and scored on Rajai Davis' errant throw home -- on a play that, originally ruled an out, was overturned by a crew chief review initiated by Ventura, who had lost his challenge in the fourth inning.
That was it for Sanchez, who allowed three runs on five hits over 6 1/3 innings, walking one and striking out five.
Danks (2-0), meanwhile, improved to 5-10 lifetime against the Tigers with 6 1/3 innings of one-run ball. The Tigers put the tying run on base in two out of three innings against the White Sox bullpen, and brought it to the plate in the other inning, but never found the big hit.