When Anibal Sanchez first came to the Detroit Tigers at the trade deadline, he didn't immediately endear himself to the fans.
Then when he got his first win at Comerica Park, he began to grow on the Tigers' faithful.
Carrying a no-hitter into the seventh inning, like he did on Sept. 15, certainly helped, as did throwing a three-hit complete-game shutout of the Kansas City Royals on Tuesday, helping the Tigers claim a share of the American League Central lead.
“They came into the game knowing they had to win the game and that kid (Sanchez) stood up," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "He had an outstanding game.”
Sanchez retired the first 11 batters he faced but, after giving up the perfect game and no-hit bids in the fourth, equally impressive was the way that he kept his pitch count low, allowing him to throw his first complete game of the season. It was the seventh of his career, and his fifth shutout.
He struck out 10, the fourth time he's reached double digits in strikeouts in a game, and his first with the Tigers.
But he wasn't sure he was coming back out for the ninth. Nor was the crowd at Comerica Park, which gave him a pretty solid ovation.
"I don’t know. I don’t see the pitch count in this inning, but I don’t see the skipper in the front of dugout, so I just keep my routine, keep everything I do. Just go down, just keep it warm, to go back (for) the ninth inning. Jonesy come over there and ask me if I’m OK, and I say I’m OK. I don’t know how many pitch I threw today, I just say ‘I’m fine.’ I just want to finish the game," Sanchez said.
"Especially for me, this is my first game past the seventh inning. Last year, I threw a couple complete game, and like I said, this year, I don’t work over seven innings. And I feel great today. Especially because we got just one more start on the season."
And the crowd roared when he came back out for the ninth, before he got Alcides Escobar to fly out, Alex Gordon to strike out, and Billy Butler to ground out to end it.
"I saw that before when the other guy throw complete games. You know, I say all the time, these fans here is pretty good. They make every player excited. The ovation, just for me, for the team all the time, when we’re out there, is really emotional," Sanchez said.
Sanchez will get one more start in the regular season, on Sunday against the Twins. After that, it's either on to the postseason, or on to free agency.
But for Sanchez, who's never made the playoffs, he'd much prefer it to be the latter.
"Yeah, this is why the team bring me here, for help, for make the team in the playoffs. That is what I wanna do. Every time I got a chance for be on the mound, I just wanna do my best, and make games like that. That’s what I like, that’s what I do. I do that before, and I just going to continue to do that," Sanchez said.
"Nothing is over, nothing is in. We’re right there. I think we got a pretty good season this year."