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Wild night gives Anibal first loss since June 3

After 7-0 stretch, Tigers righty allows three runs on 113 pitches over 5 1/3 innings

ST. PETERSBURG -- At one point early in Anibal Sanchez's start Monday night, catcher Alex Avila set up inside on a Rays batter, looking for Sanchez to pound the ball in. The ensuing pitch sent Avila diving to the other side of the batter's box to catch it.

That pitch might well have summed up Sanchez's night in a 5-2 loss to the Rays at Tropicana Field. His pitches were moving enough that Rays hitters had a tough time tracking them. They were moving so unpredictably, though, that neither Sanchez nor Avila often knew where they were going, either.

Sanchez was wild enough, along with a velocity drop, that manager Brad Ausmus made a mound visit early to check if he was fine physically. He was, he said, but his health might have been all he had going for him.

"He was pretty wild today," catcher Alex Avila said. "A lot of 3-2 counts, behind a lot of hitters, but he battled and figured out a way to keep us in the game."

Sanchez was not available for comment after the game. He gave up three runs on eight hits over 5 1/3 innings in his first loss since June 3. He had been 7-0 over eight starts since.

Monday's outing required 113 pitches, the second time this season he topped the 110-pitch mark without getting through the sixth inning. The other game was May 24 against Houston, a game that taxed him because of 11 strikeouts over 5 2/3 innings.

Monday was not one of those games, not with six strikeouts. Walks did not run up his pitch count either. Sanchez issued free passes to two of his first three hitters in a 24-pitch opening inning, but he didn't walk anyone else the rest of the night.

The problem, as Avila referenced, was long at-bats. Eight of the 25 batters Sanchez faced went to three-ball counts, including three strikeouts in a 25-pitch fourth inning. He struggled to get ahead of hitters, and often took extra pitches to finish them off when he did.

"He was behind in the count quite a bit," manager Brad Ausmus said. "His pitch count was way up. His ball-strike ratio was not strong. But he battled."

Coincidentally, his run damage came on early-count pitches -- a slider that Curt Casali hit out on the first pitch of the third inning, back-to-back doubles that Steven Souza Jr. and Kevin Kiermaier hit on 1-0 and 2-0 counts in the fourth and back-to-back first-pitch singles from James Loney and Logan Forsythe.

Still, it makes the battle more difficult for the Tigers heading towards Friday's non-waiver Trade Deadline. The Tigers are 9-14 in July, and four of those wins belong to Sanchez, making him Detroit's first 10-game winner. The rest of Detroit's rotation has four July wins combined -- two each from David Price, who's scheduled to start against the Rays on Tuesday, and Alfredo Simon.

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