DETROIT — Anibal Sanchez doesn’t understand why his performance takes a nose dive in the seventh inning.
Tuesday, it wasn’t even his fault.
Against the White Sox, he took a 2-2 tie into the seventh inning, and gave up three runs while only getting one out. Joakim Soria followed with a meltdown in his home debut, and the Tigers ended up allowing seven runs in the inning en route to an 11-4 loss.
Sanchez would be the first to admit he didn’t have a great seventh inning, but it shouldn’t have been nearly as bad as it was. Conor Gillespie started the inning with a single between first and second, but Gordon Beckham followed with a routine grounder to third. It would have been tough for Miguel Cabrera to start a 5-4-3 double play, but he seemed sure to get at least one out before the ball bounced off his glove for an error.
Sanchez retired the next batter, which could have ended the inning with a little luck, but Tyler Flowers followed with a single to left, and Gillespie scored when Rajai Davis booted the ball. Sanchez was out of the game, and things never got better.
"I worked really hard because I had an extra day between starts, and my pitches were as good as they’ve been all year," he said. "Then we got to the seventh inning, and everything that could go wrong did go wrong. A couple errors, a couple singles and it blew up on us."
Sanchez didn’t blame Cabrera or Davis for the mistakes, saying that no one wants to make an error any more than they want to make an out at the plate or allow a hit on the mound.
"We all make mistakes, and a big part of the game is picking up your teammates when something happens," he said. "That’s our job, but it didn’t happen tonight."
The problem for Brad Ausmus is that, for Sanchez, this is nothing new. This season, in the seventh inning and beyond, he has a 14.54 ERA, allowing 14 runs on 17 hits in 8 2/3 innings. For his career, the numbers aren’t quite as bad, but he still gives up a 5.40 ERA with an .800 OPS after the sixth inning.
"I don’t know how to explain that," he said. "I don’t feel like I’m tired, and I don’t feel like I’m changing the way I pitch. That’s just baseball. I don’t know."
Ausmus dismissed any concerns about Sanchez’s stamina with an enigmatic quote.
"The deeper you get into the game, as a starting pitcher, the more likely you’re going to come out," he said. "Those are just the simple facts. The deeper you go, the odds aren’t that you’re not going to go much farther."
With a little help from his defense, Sanchez might have finished the seventh inning and answered some of the questions about his stamina. Instead, with some added contributions by Soria, Christmas in July at Comerica Park turned into something that Tim Burton couldn’t even imagine.