Cruel twist can't take luster off Sanchez's gem

Blue Jays starter allows one hit, fans 12 through 8 IP before fateful ninth; bats miss chances

June 8th, 2016

DETROIT -- Aaron Sanchez pitched his heart out, had arguably the best start of his career and deserved a much better fate. Unfortunately for him, the Blue Jays could not deliver.

Toronto's inability to come through with runners in scoring position overshadowed what otherwise would have been Sanchez's coming-out party. Sanchez struck out a career-high 12 batters, was three outs away from the first complete game and shutout of his career, but he still came out on the wrong end of a 3-2 score vs. Detroit on Tuesday night.

Sanchez simply dominated a powerful Tigers lineup that looked overmatched for most of the night. He allowed one hit entering the ninth inning, but a pair of quick strikes by Detroit, combined with the Blue Jays' continued struggles on offense, led to the eventual 10th-inning loss.

"Oh my God, unbelievable," Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera said. "Whew. Wow. Very impressed. Very impressed. ... To pitch over 95 mph for eight innings, that's impressive, with a good breaking ball. He showed a little bit of changeup, but he doesn't need a changeup."

The Blue Jays carried a 2-0 lead into the ninth, but the lead should have been much bigger. Toronto had multiple opportunities to tack on additional runs but went 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position and left 11 men on base. Not too many teams can win like that.

That left very little margin for error for Sanchez, and he was quickly chased from the game in the ninth after a pair of back-to-back hits, and Roberto Osuna could not bail him out. That was all it took to spoil what should have been a celebratory night.

"It's tough to lose, it's a real tough game to lose," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "He was as good as anybody could be. He shut down a great hitting team, a real good hitting lineup. I tip my hat to the kid."

Sanchez became the first Toronto pitcher to record at least 10 strikeouts in a game since David Price had 11 in his team debut against the Twins on Aug. 3, 2015. Prior to Tuesday night, Sanchez's career high was eight.

"It was just unfortunate that we weren't able to score some more and give him the run support and allow him to go out there in the ninth inning with a little bit more of a cushion," said Kevin Pillar, who was one of the lone bright spots with a two-hit game, including a solo homer in the fifth. "It's tough. He wasn't in much trouble all day, found himself in a little trouble, and if we give him that room, he gets out of it."

The Blue Jays had high expectations for Sanchez this season, but nobody thought he would be this good, this fast. When he was being used out of the bullpen last season, Sanchez essentially became a one-pitch pitcher, and it was his bread-and-butter sinker.

This year, his curveball has developed at a seemingly lightning-quick speed. He got six of his 12 strikeouts on Tuesday night via the curveball, and he appears to be gaining more and more confidence with it every time out. Unlike previous starting stints, Sanchez can now throw it for strikes with regularity.

"I think that's about the best my curveball has ever been," Sanchez said. "Just the feel for it was unbelievable all night. I was able to throw it for strikes, I was able to put guys away with it. Overall, it was a good night for myself."

Unfortunately for Sanchez, it just wasn't a good night for the Blue Jays.