Though not dominant, Anibal Sanchez was that stopper during Sunday's 12-4 win against the Yankees. He worked through seven innings, allowing three runs as the Tigers' offense finally scored some runs.
"He came out guns a blazing in the first inning, then hit a little bit of a rough patch," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. "In the end, he did what we needed him to."
Sanchez tallied five strikeouts, but he was most effective at forcing the Yankees to pound pitch after pitch into the ground for easy outs.
"It's fun playing behind him," infielder Andrew Romine said. "Get a lot of ground balls, get a lot of work in."
By the time Sanchez took the mound in the first, he had a 4-0 lead, and he'd get eight more runs of support. He churned through that opening inning, striking out Brett Gardner and Didi Gregorius before forcing Alex Rodriguez to ground out.
Sanchez said he didn't think about the lead he'd been given. He's a 10-year Major League veteran and knows games can turn quickly.
"If we got four runs early, they can do that, too," he said. "I tried to put the ball in the strike zone, get a ground ball and get quickly out."
He allowed a pair of runs in the second inning, including a home run to Brian McCann, but left two men on base to escape serious damage. The inning ended Sanchez's streak of 22 consecutive scoreless innings, but he recovered smoothly.
He faced just 15 batters in the next four innings, holding the Yankees to three hits in that span. Stephen Drew's seventh-inning home run tacked another run onto Sanchez's line.
The performance lowered Sanchez's season ERA to 4.59, still far from his standard but almost two full runs lower than it was a month ago. He's now strung together three straight quality starts and appears to have regained the form that eluded him early this season.
After the game, multiple Tigers players said seeing Sanchez on the mound gives them confidence that good things are about to come. On Sunday, that confidence was well placed.