It didn't look too promising when the struggling Tigers went into the weekend series versus the sizzling Braves, without ace right hander.Justin Verlander. We were reminded tonight though that Verlander is not the only Tigers starter capable of pitching a dominant game. Anibal Sanchez set a franchise record by striking out 17 Atlanta batters in eight innings. That broke a record set by Mickey Lolich who twice retired 16 batters on strikes in 1969.
The final punch out for Sanchez came on a swinging strike on a curve to Braves second baseman Dan Uggla to end the eighth. Sanchez left the field to a standing ovation from an enthusiastic Comerica Park crowd that seemed to understand the significance of the 17th strikeout. He finished strong striking out the side around a single in the eighth and some fans may wanted to see him pitch the ninth, but with a pitch count of 121 there was no way that was going to happen.
Sanchez is no stranger to remarkable performances having pitched a no hitter for the Marlins in 2006. He also had three one hitters as well as a 14-strikeout game during his time in Miami. For that matter, any of the top four pitchers on this Tigers staff is capable of doing something special on a given night.
The Tigers now have two pitchers on their staff that have struck out more batters in a game than the great Verlander. The other is Max Scherzer who had 15 in a game last year. The most Verlander ever had was 14, a feat he has accomplished twice. Not only that, but fellow blogger Matt Wallace reminded me that their other big starter, Doug Fister, holds the American League record for consecutive strikeouts with nine. The Tigers fearsome foursome has combined for a 2.23 ERA with 127/31 K/BB ratio in 117 innings so far this year. That is some outstanding pitching.
One more note about Sanchez's game tonight was that it was only the second 17-strikeout game in the majors since 2007. The other was by Blue Jays right hander Brandon Morrow who struck out 17 Rays in a game on 2010.
What can the Tigers due for an encore? Well, it won't be 17 K with Rick Porcello on the mound tomorrow. It usually takes him about a month to get that many. Let's hope though that he keeps the momentum going with a solid game.