Anibal Sanchez is having a career year, and that's a big reason why the Detroit Tigers seem headed for a third straight AL Central title.
Seeking a seventh straight victory, Sanchez goes for a career high in wins Wednesday night, when the Tigers conclude a three-game set with the Chicago White Sox.
Sanchez (13-7, 2.61 ERA) leads the AL with the lowest ERA of his eight-year career, and he's already matched his highest win total set in 2010 with the Marlins.
The right-hander owns a 2.17 ERA over his last 10 starts, a stretch that began with a 1-0 defeat at Kansas City on July 19. He has matched a career best by winning all six decisions since, and Detroit has been victorious in eight of those nine outings.
Sanchez was impressive again Friday, yielding one run in seven innings while the offense gave him plenty of help by pounding out 26 hits in a 16-2 road win over the Royals.
"You can talk about the hits until the cows come home, but Sanchez shut their offense down and that's the key to the game," manager Jim Leyland told the team's official website.
Sanchez's emergence as a major contributor to Detroit's rotation is also key to the team's 5 1/2-game lead on second-place Cleveland in the division.
Prince Fielder and Victor Martinez are also helping.
Fielder is hitting .422 with three homers and nine RBIs over the past 12 games, while Martinez has a .413 average over the last 16. They combined for six hits in Tuesday's 9-1 win at Chicago, helping end the Tigers' three-game skid.
Martinez is batting .453 over his last 20 meetings with the White Sox (58-86), going 10 for 19 (.526) in the past six.
Chicago, loser of 10 of 12, tied its season high with four errors Tuesday.
The White Sox are expected to send Jose Quintana (7-6, 3.70) to the mound, and he's 0-2 with a 3.97 ERA over his last four starts. He can't be entirely to blame, though, since he's been backed by five total runs in that stretch.
The left-hander was charged with a 3-1 loss to Baltimore on Thursday, giving up all of the scoring on three homers while the offense mustered five singles.
"He gave up three solo home runs and he pitched well otherwise," first baseman Paul Konerko told the team's official website. "Another tough loss for him. He's pitched real well for us this year and we haven't got wins for him."
Quintana has received an average of 8.2 runs of support and Chicago has won all three of his starts versus the Tigers, while he's 2-0 with a 3.66 ERA.
Conor Gillaspie is enjoying a strong stretch at the plate, hitting .395 over his last 13 games while going 6 for 10 with three doubles in the past three. However, he had two throwing errors Tuesday and missed a ground ball.
"Obviously it was very difficult," Gillaspie said, "and I can honestly say that's probably the worst I've ever felt playing defense."
Gillaspie is 1 for 8 in his career against Sanchez.