Avila, Sanchez lead Tigers over Blue Jays, 3-2
DETROIT -- Alex Avila has seen games end in a lot of strange ways.
Throwing out a man old enough to be his father is certainly near the top of the list.
With the Tigers holding onto a 3-2 lead, 45-year-old Omar Vizquel startled everyone at Comerica Park by setting out for second base with two out in the bottom of the ninth. Avila's throw to Omar Infante was on the money, and the Tigers picked up a key victory.
Blue Jays manager John Farrell said that, even given Vizquel's advanced age, he wanted to try to create some offense against Jose Valverde's glacial delivery to the plate.
"He had a huge jump, and with Jose on the mound, all I can do is try to get rid of the ball as soon as possible," Avila said. "He's not concerned with the runners on base -- that's not his job -- so I know that a perfect throw is the only way I'm going to get a guy with him pitching. I released it just in time."
Vizquel became the third-oldest player to be caught stealing in major-league history, and no one was happier than fellow Venezuelan Anibal Sanchez. The play gave Sanchez a much-needed win for both himself and the Tigers.
"He's got a lot of years in this game, but he is still a great athlete," Sanchez said of Vizquel. "He's 45, I think, but he is in shape. He can keep playing as long as he wants. "
Sanchez was out of the game by the time Avila made his throw, but he was still the star of the night. Coming off two terrible starts and having had this appearance pushed back to give him time to work on his stuff, he only allowed two runs -- one earned -- on five hits in his 6 2/3 innings. He walked two batters and struck out six.
"I just wanted to throw all my pitches for strikes," Sanchez said. "Everything that we talked about in the last week worked out, so today I felt more relaxed and more comfortable on the mound. That's why I got today's result."
With Doug Fister recovering from a groin strain, the Tigers need Sanchez to pick up his game as they chase the White Sox and a wild-card berth at the same time. In his last two outings, he had allowed 12 runs on 19 hits in 8 1/3 innings, so the Tigers were happy to see him step up against Toronto.
"He threw the ball great," Avila said. "He had good action on his breaking stuff and real good life on his fastball. He was throwing 94-95, which was fantastic."
Avila said Sanchez was helped by having faced the Blue Jays twice already this season, even though he had struggled badly in both outings. The most recent came in a 5-1 loss in his Tigers debut.
"We had something to go by from his first outing against them," Avila said. "That was definitely to our advantage because he was able to mix things up against them this time. He got ahead of guys early and kept them off-balance."
Avila's throw also gave Valverde his 100th save as a Tiger, making him just the fifth player to reach that milestone in a Detroit uniform.
"I'm really happy for him," Avila said. "That's quite an accomplishment.
"It's not easy throwing a guy out with him on the mound, so that was exciting, too."