Boston Red Sox: Anibal Sanchez

W2W4: Sox-Tigers, 'Sunday Night Baseball'

June, 8, 2014

DETROIT -- The Boston Red Sox look to avoid a series and season sweep at the hands of the Detroit Tigers on ESPN's "Sunday Night Baseball" at Comerica Park.

Not only has Boston lost the first two games of the series, it has dropped five consecutive games this season to the team it beat in the American League Championship Series last season.

But reinforcements are on the way.

[+] EnlargeMike Napoli
Rick Osentoski/USA TODAY SportsMike Napoli sat in Boston's dugout Saturday, but the Sox hope he provides a boost in his return to the lineup Sunday.
First baseman Mike Napoli, who has been on the disabled list since late May with inflammation stemming from a dislocated finger on his left hand, is scheduled to be activated on Sunday, and the plan is for him to go right into the lineup at first and his accustomed fifth spot in the batting order behind David Ortiz.

The Red Sox had been struggling offensively, but their bats perked up in Saturday night's 8-6 loss to the Tigers, and they're expecting another boost from Napoli.

"You're talking about a guy who had over 20 home runs and almost 100 RBI for us a year ago [23 homers and 92 RBIs]," Boston manager John Farrell said. "So that's a guy we're happy to have back."

Boston second baseman Dustin Pedroia, who homered on Saturday night, agreed.

"A huge part of our order. A run producer. We need him," Pedroia said.

The Red Sox will send John Lackey (6-4, 3.28 ERA) to the mound against Detroit's Anibal Sanchez (2-2, 2.15).

Jon Lester was totally ineffective in taking the loss on Saturday night. He gave up five runs and 12 hits in 4⅓ innings. He said he didn't feel right from the time he started warming up in the bullpen.

"Hopefully, Lackey will come out and pick me up tomorrow night," Lester said after Saturday night's game.

Sanchez has allowed only a combined run and five hits in 15⅓ innings over his past two starts, with one walk and 14 strikeouts, but doesn't have a win to show for it.

The Tigers also feature the dangerous duo of Miguel Cabrera (.321, 11 HR and 51 RBIs) batting third in the order and Victor Martinez (.329, 14 HR and 37 RBIs) batting cleanup.

Cabrera was 3-for-4, including two doubles, with a RBI on Saturday night, and Martinez had a run-scoring double in five at-bats.

BOSTON -- The Detroit Tigers are looking for a Sunday sweep of this 2013 American League Championship Series rematch with the Boston Red Sox, having won 1-0 on Friday and 6-1 on Saturday behind dominant pitching.

Two all-too-familiar adversaries will be dueling in the finale.

The defending world champion Red Sox will try to muster some offense against Anibal Sanchez, who will make his first start since going on the 15-day disabled list on April 27 with blister problems on his right middle finger. Sanchez left the third inning of a game against Minnesota the day before, having allowed no hits through 2⅔ innings.

His counterpart, Jake Peavy, is looking to shake off some rust as well -- and regain command on his sputtering two-seamer -- in what has been a turbulent May that followed a solid April. In three starts this month, he is 0-1 with a 5.94 ERA, with just nine strikeouts and 11 walks.

Jake Peavy, Anibal Sanchez
Getty ImagesJake Peavy and Anibal Sanchez are set to face off on "Sunday Night Baseball."
For the season, Sanchez is 0-2 with a 3.13 ERA and 24 strikeouts in 23 innings. Peavy has made eight starts and is 1-1 with a 3.94 ERA, striking out 41 batters in 48 innings and allowing eight home runs.

Sanchez, of course, initially came up through the Red Sox system before being shipped off to the Marlins following the 2005 season, as part of the deal that brought Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell to Boston in exchange for Hanley Ramirez. On Sept. 6, 2006, Sanchez no-hit the Arizona Diamondbacks in his 13th career start, the only no-no of his career.

Since coming to the Tigers before the 2012 trade deadline, Sanchez has pitched well, going 18-16 with a 3.16 ERA. Last season, he finished fourth in AL Cy Young voting after posting a 14-8 record with a 2.57 ERA, 1.15 WHIP and 202 strikeouts in 182 innings.

This will be Sanchez's first matchup against the Red Sox since his two battles with them in the ALCS. In Game 1, Sanchez threw six innings of no-hit ball, striking out 12, to pick up the win in a 1-0 Tigers victory. Game 5 was a different story, as he surrendered nine hits and four runs (three earned), including a two-run homer to Mike Napoli, in a 4-3 loss.

Sanchez's lone regular-season appearance against the Sox came in his second career start with the Marlins. He was roughed up for seven runs on eight hits over 4⅓ innings, including three homers, in an 11-5 Sox win. Among current Red Sox, Shane Victorino has had the most luck, putting up .233/.298/.326 totals with a homer and two RBIs in 43 at bats. Only one other current Sox player, David Ross, has registered more than 10 regular season plate appearances versus Sanchez.

Earlier this week, Boston flipped Peavy and Felix Doubront in the pitching rotation, setting up Peavy for this Sunday night battle (8 p.m. on ESPN). He hopes to do better than his last start against the Tigers, Game 4 of the ALCS, in which he was shelled for seven runs (all earned) in three innings of a 7-3 Tigers victory.

The Tigers know Peavy quite well from his tenure with the Chicago White Sox from 2009 to 2013. In the regular season against the Tigers, Peavy is 4-5 with a 4.83 ERA, allowing 13 homers and striking out 78 in 76⅓ innings.

It's no surprise that Miguel Cabrera has found the most success against Peavy among current Tigers. The reigning AL MVP has put up .289/.347/.511 totals with three home runs and nine RBIs in 45 career at-bats against the veteran right-hander.

The Red Sox have been struggling at the plate, as Xander Bogaerts' fifth-inning solo home run Saturday night broke an 18-inning scoreless streak, the only run for Boston in a 6-1 loss in which they stranded 12 runners.

Following up reigning AL Cy Young winner Max Scherzer's three-hit, seven-inning gem on Friday night, Rick Porcello was sharp in eight innings Saturday, scattering six hits and striking out four while surrendering Boston's lone run.

How Sanchez did it in Game 1

October, 17, 2013
In his Game 1 start, Anibal Sanchez -- who starts tonight for the Tigers -- threw six no-hit innings before being removed in Detroit’s 1-0 victory. He was the first pitcher in postseason history to go at least six innings and be pulled with a no-hitter intact.

He’s also the fourth pitcher in MLB postseason history to go at least six innings without allowing a hit. In two of the others, the pitcher went on to complete the no-hitter (Don Larsen in the 1956 World Series and Roy Halladay in the 2010 NLDS). The third instance was in the 1999 ALDS, when Pedro Martinez threw six hitless innings in relief.

How was Sanchez able to dominate Red Sox hitters? By getting them to chase pitches with two strikes.

Red Sox hitters chased 41 percent of pitches in two-strike counts in Game 1, compared to just 17 percent before two strikes. Seven of his 12 strikeouts came on pitches out of the zone.

It wasn’t just Sanchez flustering Boston hitters in Game 1, but the Tigers bullpen did its part as well, allowing one hit in three shutout innings with no walks and five strikeouts.

In the game, Tigers pitchers struck out 17 Red Sox batters, tying the record for most strikeouts by a staff in a nine-inning postseason game.

The four-man Detroit staff of Sanchez, Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander and Doug Fister has combined for 42 strikeouts in the first four games of the series.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, that’s the most strikeouts for a team’s starters in the first four games of any series in postseason history. In addition, that group's total of one run allowed per nine innings pitched (3 R in 27 IP) is the second-lowest for any starting staff through the first four games of a League Championship Series.

The only staff with a better mark in an LCS was... last year’s Tigers, whose staff allowed two runs in the first 27 1/3 innings pitched.

In the two ALCS, those four Tigers starters have combined for a 5-1 record, with a 0.83 ERA, .146 opponents’ batting average and more than 11 strikeouts per 9 innings pitched.

W2W4: ALCS Game 1 -- Sox vs. Tigers

October, 11, 2013
• When and where: Fenway Park, Saturday at 8:07 p.m. ET

• Starting pitchers: Anibal Sanchez (14-8, 2.57 ERA) vs. Jon Lester (15-8, 3.75 ERA)

• Scouting report on Sanchez: Most teams would be concerned to have their Game 3 starter a series earlier start Game 1 against the league’s best team. But, then again, most teams don’t have the starting pitching of the Detroit Tigers.

“I feel very confident in him,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said of Sanchez. “He led this league in earned run average. That’s pretty impressive.”

Indeed, Sanchez’s 2.57 ERA was the lowest in the AL during the regular season, a statistic lost in the shadow of Max Scherzer's Cy Young-caliber year and the usual fanfare surrounding Justin Verlander. With Scherzer throwing 47 pitches in relief in Tuesday’s ALDS Game 4 against the Athletics and Verlander starting Game 5, Sanchez will finally be given the chance to steal the show on Saturday night.

“[Saturday] is a big day for me, especially because I’m going to start the series,” Sanchez said. “I need to keep working, I need to be focused.”

Besides Detroit, the Red Sox are the only team Sanchez has never started against in his career. The 29-year-old right hander did make a relief appearance against Boston, giving up seven earned runs in 4 1/3 innings pitched.

Sanchez is 1-3 in four postseason starts with a 3.28 ERA. He was the only Tigers starter to not make it through the fifth inning in the ALDS against Oakalnd, allowing six runs (five earned) in 4 1/3 innings pitched in Game 3.

• Scouting report on Lester: Facing the Tigers on Sept. 3, Lester arguably put together his best start of the season, throwing seven innings of one-run ball and striking out nine to outduel Scherzer and deny him his 20th win of the season.

“It was a big series for us,” Lester said. “It had that feel of, ‘Hey, we’ve got a chance to play these guys in another month and let’s set the tone now.’”

Here the Red Sox are, just over a month later and turning to Lester to once again set the tone of the series, like he did in the ALDS. Lester overpowered the Tampa Bay Rays in Game 1, hitting 97 mph on the stadium gun and going 7 2/3 quality innings for the win.

“He’s all business,” manager John Farrell said, “And that’s the way he carries himself on the field.”

In seven career starts against Detroit, Lester has gone 2-2 with an ERA of 4.63.

Three Tigers players to watch

1. Victor Martinez, DH: Martinez was Detroit’s hottest hitter in the ALDS, going 9-for-20 and scoring a team-high five runs. Against Lester, Martinez has six hits in 16 plate appearances, including a home run and three RBIs. Saturday will mark a return to Fenway for Martinez, who played for Boston in 2009 and 2010. In 111 games at Fenway, Martinez has a .317 batting average.

2. Miguel Cabrera, 3B: Like most pitchers, Lester’s line against Cabrera isn’t pretty. Cabrera has battered Lester in his career, with 10 hits in 19 at-bats (.526). No other hitter with 15 plate appearances against Lester boasts an average above .500. What’s not clear, however, is whether Lester will be facing a healthy Cabrera. The 2012 Triple Crown winner has been battling groin and abdominal injuries.

3. Prince Fielder, 1B: Fielder was held without an extra-base hit or an RBI in the ALDS, an alarming drop in output from the extra-base (61) and RBI (106) totals he put up in the regular season. Lester has held Fielder to only four singles in 16 plate appearances and has given up one RBI to the 29-year-old slugger.

Three Red Sox players to watch

1. Shane Victorino, RF: With twice the number of at-bats (43) than the rest of the Red Sox regulars combined (21) against Sanchez, Victorino will be counted upon in the two-spot to provide a source of familiarity facing the Venezuelan right-hander. Victorino has 10 hits, including a home run, in those 43 at-bats.

2. David Ortiz, DH: Right in the middle of Sanchez’s rocky relief outing against the Red Sox was Ortiz. The designated hitter launched two home runs and a double to drive in four of Boston’s seven runs against Sanchez.

3. Mike Napoli, 1B: The three days off to rest the plantar fasciitis in his left foot can only help Napoli heading into the ALCS. The 31-year-old managed just two hits in 13 at-bats against Tampa Bay in the ALDS, striking out four times.

Three key considerations

1. Before his home run Thursday night, Cabrera had gone deep just once since Aug. 27. The home run put an end to a 13-game homerless streak for Cabrera, six games short of his career-high (July 8-30, 2006). In the seven games following that slump, Cabrera went 11-for-26 with a home run and 9 RBIs.

2. Leyland said Friday afternoon that Jose Iglesias would start at shortstop for Game 1 over Jhonny Peralta. Iglesias went 1-for-12 in the ALDS compared to Peralta at 5-for-12. A novice outfielder, Peralta could play left field in front of the Green Monster in Game 1.

3. The starters for Games 2-4 of the series are as follows:

• Sunday, Oct. 13 -- Clay Buchholz vs. Max Scherzer, Fenway Park
• Tuesday, Oct. 15 -- John Lackey vs. Justin Verlander, Comerica Park
• Wednesday, Oct. 16 -- Jake Peavy vs. Doug Fister, Comerica Park