DETROIT -- Wednesday night began well for the Tigers, their starting pitcher retiring the first 12 batters he faced and carrying a no-hitter into the seventh inning. It ended with a late-game letdown and a 4-1 loss that completed a sweep for the Royals.Aníbal Sánchez (6-12, 5.94 ERA) had Comerica
DETROIT -- Wednesday night began well for the Tigers, their starting pitcher retiring the first 12 batters he faced and carrying a no-hitter into the seventh inning. It ended with a late-game letdown and a 4-1 loss that completed a sweep for the Royals.
Aníbal Sánchez (6-12, 5.94 ERA) had Comerica Park buzzing as he racked up eight strikeouts, allowing just one hit and two walks over seven innings. It was Sanchez's first start since June 15, 2015 -- a two-hit shutout -- in which he did not allow a run.
Despite the gem, the struggling Tigers offense was not able to provide much support. Detroit was outscored, 13-3, in the three-game sweep.
Sanchez's bid for a no-hitter ended on a two-out double by Eric Hosmer in the seventh inning, bringing the fans at Comerica Park to their feet for a standing ovation.
"I knew he was putting everything on the corners, so I just wanted to put a good swing at the first pitch that I could get my bat on," Hosmer said.
Sanchez was approaching 100 pitches in the seventh inning. Manager Brad Ausmus said he would have considered sending Sanchez back out to the mound had the veteran right-hander escaped the seventh without allowing a hit, but winning was the skipper's first priority.
Sanchez said he knew the Royals were capable of putting good swings on changeups, but his was good enough to keep them at bay.
"The changeup was pretty good," Sanchez said. "That's the pitch I've been working on most."
Sanchez has had a shaky season, but things have started to look up for him lately. He was briefly demoted to the bullpen in July, and his ERA has approached 7.00 often this year. But he has turned in quality starts in three of his last four outings and has posted a 1.67 ERA in his last four home starts.
"That's as good as I've ever seen Anibal Sanchez throw the ball," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "I had seen what he had done in his last start, but I know that when he's on, he has ridiculous command of his fastball and a phenomenal changeup. That's what he had tonight.
Sanchez was pleased with the performance he turned in Wednesday and said he just has to keep working hard.
"I don't want to say that everything's turned; I just feel really good," Sanchez said. "I feel confident after this outing. But in five days, it's a totally different day."
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Wednesday's loss was the Tigers' eighth in 10 games. They now find themselves losing ground in a postseason chase with just 42 games to play. The Tigers are battling a slew of injuries, making each game even more important.
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"With the injuries coming and [having] this many guys out, it's really tough," Sanchez said.
Kyle Beery is a reporter for MLB.com based in Detroit.