While Anibal Sanchez has posted inconsistent results since joining the Detroit Tigers, he proved nearly unhittable his last time out.
Another gem Sunday could help Detroit inch closer to locking up a playoff spot.
With Miguel Cabrera looking to continue his quest for the AL triple crown, Sanchez tries to post back-to-back wins for the first time since getting traded as the visiting Tigers conclude a three-game set against the Minnesota Twins.
After dropping Friday's series opener 4-2, first-place Detroit (85-73) bounced back Saturday with a 6-4 win and - coupled with Chicago's 10-4 loss to Tampa Bay - moved two games ahead of the White Sox in the Central.
"That was a huge game for us," manager Jim Leyland said. "You look at the scoreboard and see the White Sox most likely are going to lose. That's a game you've got to win."
Cabrera's three-run homer - his 43rd of the season - moved him into a tie with Texas' Josh Hamilton for the league lead. The third baseman, who also leads the AL with 136 RBIs and a .327 average, has a chance to become the first player to lead the league in all three categories since Boston's Carl Yastrzemski in 1967.
"I want to talk about the team," said Cabrera, batting .444 with four homers and 15 RBIs during an 11-game hitting streak in Minnesota. "There's too many distractions right now and been talking too much about triple crowns. I pull too much attention. I don't want to do that. I want to go out there and play my game."
Winners in five of six, the Tigers will try to keep rolling behind Sanchez, who's 4-6 with a 3.95 ERA over 11 starts since coming over from Miami.
The right-hander, though, was at his best Tuesday, scattering three hits and striking out 10 in his fifth career shutout, a 2-0 win over Kansas City.
"That's why the team brings me here, to help the team make the playoffs," he told the team's official website. "That is what I'm doing. When I get the chance to be on the mound, I'm just going to do my best to pitch games like that."
Sanchez struggled in his only career appearance against Minnesota (66-92), yielding five runs and a season-high 12 hits over 5 1-3 innings of a 9-3 road loss Aug. 13.
He faces a Twins team coming off its eighth home loss in 11 games, a stretch during which it's been outscored 68-33 while hitting .208.
Minnesota will try to regroup behind Liam Hendriks (1-8, 6.09), who continues to be plagued by the long ball. The right-hander's 1.95 homers allowed per nine innings ranks as baseball's fourth-highest mark among pitchers with at least 15 starts.
Hendriks couldn't keep the ball in the park Monday against the New York Yankees, giving up six runs and a career-high four homers during a 6-3 loss.
"I think tonight you saw what happens when you leave too many balls over the middle of the plate - they end up flying an awful long ways," manager Ron Gardenhire told the Twins' official website. "It's pretty much what hurt Liam all night long."
In his only appearance versus Detroit, Hendriks surrendered four runs, six hits and a career-worst four walks over four-plus innings of a 6-4 road win July 2.
After this game, Detroit plays its final series at Kansas City while Minnesota visits Toronto.
- Miguel Cabrera
- Anibal Sanchez