On another team, he might be an ace.
For the Detroit Tigers, Anibal Sanchez is the No. 3 starter — at least in this AL division series against Oakland.
Sanchez takes the mound this afternoon for Game 3 between the Tigers and Athletics after the teams split a pair of pulsating one-run games in Oakland.
The A’s evened the series Saturday night despite a brilliant performance by Detroit right-hander Justin Verlander, and now the Tigers will call on Sanchez, another standout from what’s become an exceptional starting rotation.
“We just came back from playing two playoff games, and we’re pitching a guy that led the league in earned run average,” Detroit manager Jim Leyland said. “That’s pretty good.”
Sanchez’s 2.57 ERA this season indeed paced the American League, and he’s been exactly what Detroit hoped for when the Tigers acquired him from the Miami Marlins in the middle of last season.
Sanchez, Verlander and right-hander Max Scherzer have been so good over the last couple years, it wasn’t clear how Leyland would order them for this series.
“This year, I just tried to keep to the level of those guys,” Sanchez said. “For me, I’ve got my job, and every five days, I try at that point, to throw a really good game.”
Scherzer won Game 1 against Oakland, and Verlander held the A’s scoreless for seven innings in Game 2.
Oakland finally scored in the ninth off the Detroit bullpen to win 1-0, but now the Tigers can send Sanchez out. Doug Fister will take the mound in Game 4 after going 14-9 with a 3.67 ERA during the regular season.
“They’re lucky enough to have three guys — and really Fister at times can be just as tough as any of them,” Oakland manager Bob Melvin said. “If you put any of those four guys on a different team ... you’re looking at top-of-the-rotation guys.”
Oakland right-hander Jarrod Parker will pitch Game 3, and he says there’s no extra pressure to match scoreless frames with the Tigers.
“That’s the goal every time out,” Parker said.