Leyland wants fewer pitches, more innings from Sanchez

Leyland wants fewer pitches, more innings from Sanchez
October 17, 2013, 6:00 pm
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GAME 5: PREGAME

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DETROIT -- Tigers starting pitchers have recorded 42 strikeouts in 27 innings through the first four games of the ALCS and right-hander Anibal Sanchez, the starting pitcher for Game 5 Thursday night, had 12 in six innings in Game 1.

Manager Jim Leyland, though, wouldn’t mind seeing the strikeout numbers decrease. 

“Sometimes that a Catch-22,” Leyland said Thursday afternoon. “It’s good because they’re outs. But it’s bad because the pitch count gets so high."

Scherzer left after six innings in Game 1 when his pitch count reached 116.

“I’m hoping Sanchez can cut down on that pitch count tonight," said Leyland. "I think it would be very important for us.”

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Leyland believes there are challenges for pitches facing a lineup multiple times in a short series, as his starters will begin to do tonight.

“I think there’s something to be said for that,” he said. “I’d be lying if I didn’t, because I used that example.

“Remember in the Oakland [ALDS] series," he said. "We had not seen [A’s rookie right-hander] Sonny Gray, and the first time around he chewed us up pretty good. The second time around [in the decisive Game 5], it was a combination of he wasn’t as good and we had seen him.

“I think it does make a difference if you’ve seen a guy. It gives you a little help. It doesn’t mean if he’s really good, like you hope your pitcher will be tonight, that it doesn’t necessarily mean anything. But it does help, I think, if you’ve seen a guy.”

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This is Leyland’s 22nd season as a manager, and his fourth postseason. He won the World Series in 1997 with the Marlins, and has won the A.L. twice with the Tigers, in 2006 and 2012. His rotation of right-handers Sanchez, Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander, and Doug Fister is the best he’s ever managed.

“We had a very good rotation in Florida in 1997 we were fortunate enough to win the World Series,” Leyland said. “But it wasn’t as good as this one. This is the best that I’ve had. I’m not talking about other teams, other organizations. But for me, yes, it’s the best postseason starting rotation I’ve ever had.”

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Leyland on the importance of winning Game 5:

“It’s important for both teams, probably a little bit more important for us than them, to be honest with you. But it’s not the end of the world. Whoever loses this game, it doesn’t mean you’ve won anything if you win this game. Probably more important for us, because if we win this one, then we’d have to get a split in Boston. If we don’t, we’d have to win two in their park. They’re pretty good there, obviously.”

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Entering Game 5, Tigers starting pitchers have recorded eight quality starts in their nine postseason games, positing a combined 1.97 ERA, giving up 13 earned runs in 59 1/3 innings with 81 strikeouts, holding opponents to a.177 average. The Tigers led the majors with 108 quality starts in the regular season.