Sanchez focused on strong finish to 2017

September 16th, 2017

DETROIT -- The Tigers might have turned their attention to the future, but insists he has not.

He's not looking at these last few outings this season as an audition for teams ahead of an uncertain offseason. He's not thinking about the $16 million option on his contract, which the rebuilding Tigers can buy out for $5 million.

"I don't want to think about next year," Sanchez said. "I don't want to think even about what I'm going to do tomorrow. I just think about what I've done today. That's the important thing. I want to move forward to make another really good outing for the next one, and that's what I want to worry about right now."

With six innings of one-run ball and 11 strikeouts in Friday's 3-2 Tigers win over the White Sox, he gave himself a good start toward that.

"I haven't talked to him about it, but I assume he wants to pitch next year," manager Brad Ausmus said. "Absolutely, this is a little bit like a tryout, so people can see that he still has the ability to pitch."

Sanchez does not have that mid-90s fastball and sinker that used to flummox hitters on his way to an ERA title in 2013. He works to keep those pitches a tick above 90 now, but when he's on, it's more about location than power.

That's what he had Friday, hitting catcher 's mitt on the spot, moving pitches up and down, enticing White Sox batters hoping to unload on a pitch in the zone and send it out.

"He had his four-seam and two-seam working, and he was throwing a cutter," McCann said. "He was really good tonight. He literally made one mistake, and that was the home run to [Yoan] Moncada. Other than that, he was dominant."

Moncada's third-inning solo homer, his second in as many games, was the last well-struck ball Sanchez surrendered. He struck out five of Chicago's first 10 batters before that, and scattered three ground-ball singles afterward while striking out six of the last nine hitters he faced.

"I was able to put the ball on both sides of the strike zone," Sanchez said. "Change of speeds helped me a lot to keep all the White Sox hitters out of balance. When I'm able to hit the strike zone on both sides of the plate, I can do a lot."

His 11 strikeouts marked his first time in double digits since August 2016 against the Mets. His 17 swinging strikes marked his highest total in two years.

"He really used his fastball at the top of the zone well," Ausmus said. "He used all his pitches. His changeup was good tonight, too. But he got a lot of swings and misses up top. And he avoided that gray area.

"If you're too close to the strike zone at the top, it's a dangerous pitch because they can hit it over the wall. If you're just above that, or at the top of the gray area, it's a foul ball or a swing-and-miss. He did a nice job of staying above that gray area, and still enticing them to swing."

Sanchez didn't get a win but delivered the first quality start by a Tiger since 's outing Aug. 30 at Colorado. Verlander was traded the next day. Sanchez likely has three more starts before the contract situation comes up.

"I figure right now, I just need to keep working," he said. "I want to finish stronger. I'm just working as much as I can to finish strong."