DETROIT (AP) — For one night at least, Anibal Sanchez changed the pitching pecking order in the Detroit clubhouse.
Sanchez struck out 17 in eight marvelous innings, and the Tigers routed the Atlanta Braves 10-0 on Friday night. It was a dazzling performance by Sanchez, who broke Mickey Lolich’s team record of 16 strikeouts.
Yes, even Justin Verlander has never had a game like this. His career high is 14 strikeouts. Max Scherzer fanned 15 for Detroit in a game last year.
“We were joking after the game that Anibal is No. 1, I’m No. 2 and Ver is just average,” Scherzer said.
When told about that comment, Verlander — a former MVP and Cy Young Award winner who has thrown two no-hitters — paused briefly.
“That’s OK,” he said. “I’ve got a few other things.”
This was Sanchez’s night. He threw 121 pitches in his eight innings, so there would be no return for the ninth to try to match Roger Clemens and Kerry Wood with 20 strikeouts. In fact, manager Jim Leyland said he was ready to take Sanchez out after the seventh before letting him pitch a bit longer.
Sanchez was asked after the game about his new place in franchise history. The Tigers have been around for over a century, and Sanchez now sits alone at the top of the list for strikeouts in a game.
“Amazing,” Sanchez said. “I’m just going to keep working. That’s not going to stop today.”
Clemens and Wood are the only pitchers to strike out 20 in a nine-inning game. Since at least 1921, only Randy Johnson has struck out more than 17 while pitching eight innings or less. Johnson, who was then with Seattle, fanned 18 against Texas in eight innings in a 1992 game, according to STATS.
Lolich struck out 16 twice in less than three weeks in 1969.
Sanchez (3-1) allowed five hits and one walk Friday.
Paul Maholm (3-2) allowed eight runs in 3 2-3 innings after giving up only three in his first four starts. Detroit’s Matt Tuiasosopo homered and drove in a career-high five runs.
Sanchez kept the Braves off balance all night, striking out at least two hitters in every inning except the fourth. Several of his strikeouts came when he got Atlanta hitters to chase balls down around the dirt. He got Dan Uggla four times and Freddie Freeman and Juan Francisco three times each.
“He was really good. I don’t even know if he missed a spot,” Uggla said. “Everything was moving, cutting and sinking.”
Sanchez’s performance overshadowed Tuiasosopo’s big game with the bat. Tuiasosopo entered the game with 16 RBIs in a major league career that began with Seattle in 2008. He was a somewhat surprising addition to Detroit’s roster out of spring training, but he’s hit well in limited action.
Tuiasosopo’s bases-loaded single in the third drove in two runs and made it 4-0.
Detroit scored six runs the following inning. An RBI double by Victor Martinez made it 7-0 and chased Maholm, and with two on, Tuiasosopo hit a drive over the left-field fence for his first homer since 2010. He didn’t play a game in the majors in 2011 or 2012.
“It’s been a long time,” Tuiasosopo said. “It’s been the last few years, just trying to get back up here — kind of trying to figure things out. It feels good every day to be back here in the big leagues, to be able to contribute to this team.”
With a 10-0 lead, it was just a question of how many hitters Sanchez could strike out. He’d already fanned 14 at the start of the eighth, matching Yu Darvish of Texas for the highest single-game total in the majors this season.
Then he left that mark behind, fanning Francisco and Reed Johnson to start the inning. After Andrelton Simmons singled, Uggla struck out, and Sanchez’s work was done.
NOTES: According to STATS, Sanchez now holds the record for most strikeouts in a regular-season interleague game. The previous mark was 16, set by Philadelphia’s Curt Schilling in 1997 against the New York Yankees and Boston’s Pedro Martinez in 1999 against Atlanta. … Sanchez lowered his ERA to 1.34. Maholm’s rose from 1.03 to 3.30. … Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera extended his hitting streak to 10 games. … Detroit’s Rick Porcello (0-2) faces Atlanta’s Kris Medlen (1-2) on Saturday.