The Detroit Tigers are suffering through their worst skid of the season, mostly because of substantial pitching struggles.
Anibal Sanchez will try to put an end to it Friday night as the Tigers continue this four-game set with the visiting Texas Rangers, who are preparing for a summer without Prince Fielder.The Rangers (23-24) will have to get used to being without their first baseman after it was revealed Thursday that Fielder, who has missed the last five games, is expected to undergo season-ending surgery on a herniated disk in his neck."It's a situation where there wasn't anything he could do about it," manager Ron Washington told the team's official website. "If he could, he would be here."The Tigers (27-16), meanwhile, have lost four straight with a 9.28 ERA from their rotation after Robbie Ray gave up seven runs and couldn't escape the fourth inning in Thursday's 9-2 loss. The starters have allowed 19 earned runs in a three-game span for the first time since May 24-27, 2011, and they'll now try to avoid losing five straight for the first time since April 22-27, 2012."Regardless of your team, you are going to go through a stretch where you don't get the starting pitching you need, and it taxes your bullpen, and things start to snowball from there," manager Brad Ausmus said.Sanchez (1-2, 2.89 ERA) returned from the disabled list Sunday and earned his first victory, surrendering two runs -- one earned -- in five innings of a 6-2 win in Boston."He was actually pretty crisp. Fastball, changeup, slider all looked pretty good," Ausmus said. "Command around the zone was pretty good. We wanted to stop him around 85ish pitches. He got us through five. A pretty good first start back off the DL."He's yet to go more than 6 1/3 innings in any of his six starts, but he's held opposing hitters to a .196 average. Sanchez, however, is 0-3 with a 9.49 ERA and .393 opponent average in three career starts against Texas.Scott Baker would love to see the Rangers' offense put up similar numbers as he makes his first start. Baker (0-0, 3.38) allowed two runs in 5 1/3 innings of a relief appearance on May 7 -- his only outing since being recalled from Triple-A Round Rock, where he went 4-1 with a 3.32 ERA in six starts.Baker started three games for the Chicago Cubs last season after missing all of 2012 due to elbow surgery."He's got experience," Washington said. "He's been out there trying to get 27 outs before. We'll give him a shot. Where we are is giving guys opportunities so he'll get an opportunity."Baker is 7-5 with a 4.71 ERA in 23 career starts against Detroit. Miguel Cabrera is 12 for 35 against him with three home runs.Texas has won consecutive games for just the second time in the past month and can now get back to .500 for the first time in 10 days. Shin-Soo Choo homered for a second straight game."We understand not every day we're going to be able to put nine runs up, especially against this team," Washington said after Thursday's victory.For Detroit, Ian Kinsler went 1 for 3 against his former team and has an eight-game hitting streak while Cabrera remained hot, going 2 for 4 to give him a .455 average with 16 RBIs in his past 12 games.Rangers outfielder Leonys Martin returned as a defensive replacement for center fielder Dan Robertson when Robertson and right fielder Alex Rios collided on a fly ball. Robertson's X-ray and concussion tests were negative. Martin hasn't been in the starting lineup since Sunday because of a neck injury, but went 2 for 4.Adrian Beltre, batting .361 in his last nine games, is 4 for 5 against Sanchez.
Since the beginning of 2013, batters are hitting just .190 against Anibal Sanchez' changeup, which is 50 points below the league average of .240. So far in 2014, Elvis Andrus and Prince Fielder are hitting .182 in at bats that end in changeups, 63 points worse than league average.