Tigers catcher Brayan Pena (55) and starting pitcher Anibal Sanchez (19) walk off the field during Friday's game, where Sanchez struck out 17 Braves.
DETROIT -- It wasn’t surprising that a Detroit Tigers right-hander set a franchise record for strikeouts. But no one expected it to be Anibal Sanchez.
On a staff that includes strikeout artists Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer, Sanchez made history with 17 strikeouts in a 10-0 romp over the Atlanta Braves at Comerica Park on Friday. Mickey Lolich held the previous team record with 16 strikeouts on May 23, 1969.
“I know my pitches were working good, but I’m surprised I got a lot of strikeouts. I’ve never been in that situation before,” said Sanchez, who was acquired from the Miami Marlins last season and re-signed with Detroit in the offseason. “I just heard I got the record for the history of the team, but I’m more concerned with getting quick outs. Yeah, I’m surprised to get a lot of strikeouts and see a lot of swing and miss, a lot of (called third strikes). I said, ‘Wow, something good’s happening.’”
Sanchez (3-1), whose previous career high was 14 strikeouts against Arizona while pitching for Miami last April, pitched eight shutout innings. He established the franchise mark by striking out Dan Uggla in the eighth.
“From the get go, he was unbelievable,” said catcher Brayan Pena, who caught Sanchez for the first time. “He was mixing it up. He was keeping the ball down, he was using all his pitches, he was working fast, he was working in and out. It was one of those nights where you wish you could see that again.”
Uggla struck out four times while Freddie Freeman and Juan Francisco struck out three times apiece against Sanchez as the Braves lost for the fifth time in seven games.
“He pitched a great game,” Uggla said. “He pounded the zone, he got us to chase. It’s not like we weren’t trying to make adjustments on him. It just didn’t happen. He was better than us tonight.”
Matt Tuiasosopo supplied half of Detroit’s offense with a career-high five RBIs. Tuiasosopo, who had 16 career RBIs in 85 games prior to Friday, smacked a two-run single in the third and a three-run homer in the fourth. Torii Hunter, who leads the majors with 13 multi-hit games, and Victor Martinez had three hits apiece for Detroit.
Sanchez, who gave up 11 hits and struck out just three in his previous outing against the Los Angeles Angels, didn’t need that much of a cushion. He struck out at least two batters in all but one inning -- the fourth, when he got an inning-ending double play.
“On the start before this, I threw good but my command wasn’t there,” he said. “Today, I didn’t feel anything special but I knew I had good command when I struck out (the last two batters) in the first inning. I threw 10 pitches on the outside corner. I felt I could use any pitch in any count, and that’s what I think about all the time on the mound. I try to be smart and throw a good pitch at the right time.”
The Tigers grabbed the lead with a four-run third against Braves starter Paul Maholm (3-2), who had a 1.03 ERA entering the game. Hunter and Martinez had RBI singles prior to Tuiasosopo’s two-run single to left.
Detroit extended the lead to 10-0 in the fourth. Miguel Cabrera singled in the first of those runs, Prince Fielder had a run-scoring groundout and Martinez ripped an RBI double. That knocked out Maholm.
Reliever Anthony Varvaro then walked Jhonny Peralta, setting up Tuiasosopo’s three-run homer to left-center.
Sanchez took care of the rest.
“From the times I faced him (in the National League), he was a different guy tonight,” Uggla said. “I’ve heard from people that once he got over to Detroit last year, he was a different pitcher. I guess a switch turned on and he just locked it in.”
NOTES: Tigers trainer Kevin Rand said Verlander should be able to make his next start against Minnesota on Tuesday. Verlander developed a blister on his pitching thumb and came out after seven innings against Kansas City on Thursday. … Braves catcher Brian McCann (right shoulder surgery in October 2012) began a minor league rehab assignment and hit two home runs with four RBIs for Class A Rome in Greensboro on Friday. He developed soreness in his right wrist and that delayed his catching in extended spring training games. He won’t return to the Braves lineup until at least early May. … Detroit outfielder Andy Dirks has been battling a sore knee and was not in the lineup for the second straight game. … Atlanta manager Fredi Gonzalez wants to see both leagues adopt the designated hitter. “I was against the DH and liked the National League rules,” he said. “Now you’ve got the balance (15 teams in each league), two wild cards, all this stuff, so why not have one set of rules? I don’t think it will go to no DH, so I’m willing to give up my soapbox.”