Sanchez continues to struggle in Tigers' disappointing loss to Astros

Published May. 24, 2015 4:56 p.m. EDT

DETROIT -- It's hard to pick one image to symbolize the Tigers' ugly loss to Houston on Sunday, but it can be narrowed down to two choices.

It could be Anibal Sanchez, bent over in frustration, as Preston Tucker's pinch-hit three-run homer bounced off the Belle Tire sign in right field, tying the game at 7.

Or it might be Bryan Holaday, sprinting as best he could in full catcher's gear, crashing into Marwin Gonzalez at second base but dropping the ball to end a horrendous bit of team defense.

Either way, by the end of the 10-8 loss, no one was happy.


"If we had won today, I guess this would have been a decent homestand," Brad Ausmus said. "But now it is a disappointing homestand, especially because of the way we lost today. This one bothered me, I thought we were a little sloppy and as a manager I'm partially to blame for that. 

"But it disturbs me when we score eight runs and we lose."

Holaday wasn't to blame for the play at second base -- he had run out to try to help salvage a rundown when no one else was covering second -- but he made his own mistake in the first. With runners on the corners and one out, Holaday gave Sanchez the wrong sign. Instead of trying to pick Colby Rasmus off first, Sanchez turned to throw to third, only to see no one covering the bag. The result was a balk, giving the Astros a 3-0 lead.

"I was supposed to give him the sign for pick-one, and I signaled pick-3," Holaday said. "That's on me."

The Tigers scored five times in the bottom of the first, and led 7-3 going into the sixth, but Sanchez's bizarre season came apart again.

Evan Gattis started the inning by homering on a 1-1 pitch. Sanchez struck out two of the next three hitters, giving him 11 for the game, but Jonathan Villar singled to give the Astros two on with two out.

The Astros went with lefty pinch-hitter Preston Tucker, but Ausmus decided to stay with Sanchez, who had thrown 111 pitches.

"I like Sanchie against lefties, because of his changeup," Ausmus said. "This is where we are in this day and age is, if it doesn't work then it was the wrong move. If it does work, it was the right move."

It didn't work -- Tucker hit the second homer of his career, both coming in this series -- and then the bullpen gave up three more runs down the stretch.

The biggest concern, though, has to be Sanchez. Without Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello, Sanchez needs to be a solid second starter for the Tigers. But after ten starts, he's 3-5 with a 6.12 ERA.

In 2013-14, he was the toughest starter in baseball to homer against. He's already given up 11 this year, though, tied for second in the American League. 

"If you see the replay, both home runs were down, really down on Gattis," he said. "I felt good today, even in the sixth inning. They both put good swings on the ball, and I can't be concerned about that."

But Sanchez understands that his pitching performance is one of the reasons that the Tigers are now in third place, three games behind Kansas City and percentage points behind the Twins.

"I've overcome a lot in my career, but I have never faced this situation before," Sanchez said. "I am not special. I am just a baseball player -- I am a human. I am keeping my face up and continuing to work. 

"I want to do something to help this team win."