Anibal Sanchez put on a dazzling display in one of the best pitching performances in recent memory his last time out.
Now everyone is eager to see what he can do for an encore.
Coming off his 17-strikeout masterpiece, Sanchez will try to lead the Tigers to a sixth straight victory Wednesday in the series finale against the visiting Minnesota Twins.
Off to a very solid start this season, Sanchez (3-1, 1.34 ERA) went well beyond that and had a game for the ages Friday, notching a franchise-record 17 strikeouts in eight innings and allowing five hits and one walk in a 10-0 win over Atlanta.
Since at least 1921, only Randy Johnson has struck out more than 17 while pitching eight innings or less. Johnson, then with Seattle, fanned 18 against Texas in 1992.
Sanchez was asked after the game about his new place in franchise history.
“Amazing,” he said. “I’m just going to keep working. That’s not going to stop today.”
The right-hander has held opponents to two or fewer earned runs in each of his five starts, pitching at least 6 2-3 innings in his last four outings.
“I don’t think too much about strikeouts and records and things like that,” said Sanchez said, who has a 41:9 strikeout-to-walk ratio. “I prefer getting some zeros.”
He is 5-3 with a 1.30 ERA in his last 10 starts, including three in the 2012 postseason.
Now, Sanchez will face one of the league’s weakest offenses, one he held to two hits over five scoreless innings at Target Field on April 3. He was in line for the win in that game before Detroit’s bullpen faltered in the ninth inning of a 3-2 loss.
The Twins (11-12) rank near the bottom of the AL in runs scored (92), homers (15) and batting average (.237). They were held to six hits against Justin Verlander and three relievers in Tuesday’s 6-1 loss.
Sanchez’s teammates, meanwhile, have given Detroit pitchers plenty of support lately. The Tigers (15-10) have outscored opponents 35-11 during a five-game win streak and have 11 home runs, 10 doubles and a triple during that stretch.
“The name of the game in baseball is to try to extend your winning streaks - when you’re playing well - as long as you can, and shorten the losing streaks,” Verlander said. “You’re not going to be hot the whole year. Our talent is going to take over, and I feel like we’re starting to show that now.”
Cabrera, who is batting .420 at home, finished April with 28 RBIs, the most by a Tigers player in the opening month since at least 1921. He is 7 for 15 with a pair of doubles off scheduled starter Scott Diamond
Fielder has four home runs and 14 RBIs in his last 11 home games against Minnesota.
Sanchez may have the added benefit of not facing Joe Mauer who ended a career-worst 0-for-21 skid with a third-inning single Tuesday. Manager Ron Gardenhire said he may rest his veteran catcher with the Twins off Thursday.
Diamond (1-2, 4.32) looks to continue a run of solid outings against the Tigers. Since losing his first start versus Detroit on Aug. 26, 2011, the left-hander has gone 1-1 with a 1.98 ERA in four meetings.
He has a 2.35 ERA in three career starts at Comerica Park.
Diamond gave up a career-high 12 hits over 6 1-3 innings against Texas on Friday, but was able to limit the Rangers to three runs in a 4-3 loss.