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Long ball continues to pester Sanchez

Tigers starter ranks 2nd in AL for home runs allowed

BALTIMORE -- Anibal Sanchez now ranks second in the American League in home runs allowed. He might lead the league in frustrations over them.

He was still looking over video of his outing when the clubhouse opened to reporters following Saturday's 6-2 loss to the Orioles. The Tigers right-hander pored over footage of Caleb Joseph's two-run homer in the fourth inning and Manny Machado's solo shot that knocked him out in the seventh. He was left with the same frustrations as previous outings.

Sanchez tied his season high with nine hits allowed. He was so frustrated with the two big ones that he wasn't even thinking about the other seven.

"It's like every hit," he said. "If I allow two hits in a game, it's two home runs. If I allow three hits in a game, it's three homers. If I allow one hit, it's one homer. It's crazy."

It's understandable how Sanchez would think that way. He had never allowed more than 20 home runs in a season before this year. His last full season in 2013, he posted the lowest home-run rate in the league at 0.4 per nine innings, a big reason why he also led the AL in earned run average and fielding independent pitching. He now has allowed 24, tied with CC Sabathia and one behind Phil Hughes for the AL lead.

After an early-season bout with home runs, he had found a way to survive the long ball, posting seven wins and a no-decision in an eight-start stretch that began in early June. The one game he didn't win in that period was a June 26 game against the White Sox in which he allowed three homers.

His win streak ended last time out, but Curt Casali's solo homer was a footnote over 5 1/3 innings of three-run ball against the Rays on Monday. Saturday's homers hurt.

"Sometimes in a game like that, it's a couple bloopers, two homers, six runs," he said. "No matter what, if I give up 10 or one, it's always homers, it's always easy runs for me. I don't know."

Joseph's homer came just as Sanchez thought he was on his way to escaping damage in the fourth. He had racked up back-to-back strikeouts following J.J. Hardy's leadoff infield single, leaving him with the ninth hitter to try to beat. Joseph had singled home a run his first time up, but on an easy line drive to left.

With a 2-1 count, Sanchez threw a sinker inside. Joseph turned on it and sent it out to left-center, where the ball seemed to be carrying. It turned a 3-0 game into a 5-0 deficit.

"Joseph, he swings at that ball inside," Sanchez said. "That's the way it is. Sometimes you have pretty good stuff and it's not where you want. Sometimes you don't have a really good pitch and throw a good game. That's one of those days today."

Machado's 23rd home run of the year was more of a mistake, a 2-0 splitter that hung on the outer half for Machado to drive out.

"Machado swung hard at that ball," Sanchez said. "That was a changeup away, a little bit up."

Sanchez could've finished out the inning; he certainly wasn't tiring at 95 pitches. With left-handed hitter Gerardo Parra coming up, though, manager Brad Ausmus made the move to the bullpen. As he asked for the ball from Sanchez, he told him that he pitched better than the numbers.

"His stuff was good," Ausmus said. "It's just the two home runs that hurt more than anything else."

That's not a great consolation for him these days.

"I try to do my job every five days," Sanchez said. "I prepare so much. I'm doing my job. I prepare a good game plan. I've been doing it all year, bad situations, good situations. It's like a roller coaster right now. I don't know. They've got a pretty good team, they've got pretty good hitters. But at the end, I make a really good pitch and then it doesn't work."

Jason Beck is a reporter for Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and listen to his podcast.
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