Anibal Sanchez had himself a ballgame

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With all due respect to Nationals starter Jordan Zimmermann, the author of a one-hit shutout against the Cincinnati Reds, Anibal Sanchez was tonight’s best pitcher. The right-hander, who signed a five-year, $80 million contract with the Tigers back in December, shut out the Braves with a franchise record 17 strikeouts over eight innings.

The Braves entered the night with the fifth-best offense in the National League averaging 4.6 runs per game with a league-best 35 home runs, but Sanchez kept the Braves’ bats silent with masterful pitching from start to finish, allowing only five hits and one walk. It also didn’t hurt that the Tigers spotted him a ten-run cushion with a four-run third and six-run fourth.

Sanchez tied Mickey Lolich’s Tigers club record for strikeouts in a nine-inning game (16) when he got Reed Johnson to strike out swinging for the second out in the eighth.

Tigers manager Jim Leyland opted to use Bruce Rondon in the ninth rather than allow Sanchez to finish his masterpiece. However, Sanchez was 121 pitches, so it is justifiable.

The last pitcher to strike out 17 or more batters was Brandon Morrow, who tossed a one-hit shut-out with 17 punch-outs against the Tampa Bay Rays on August 8, 2010. Others to do it in the 2000’s include Johan Santana (2007), Ben Sheets (2004), Randy Johnson (twice in 2002, once in 2001), Curt Schilling (2002), and Pedro Martinez (2000).

Will Middlebrooks carted off field with left ankle injury

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Phillies third baseman Will Middlebrooks suffered a serious injury during Saturday’s Grapefruit League contest against the Orioles. The infielder was chasing down a pop fly in the eighth inning when he ran into left fielder Andrew Pullin, who inadvertently trapped Middlebrooks’ ankle under his leg. Middlebrooks was unable to put weight on his leg following the collision and was carted off the field and taken to a local hospital for X-rays.

Per MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki, not much is known yet about the severity of the ankle injury or the recovery time it will require, though it appears serious enough to set Middlebrooks back considerably as he seeks a backup/bench role with the team this spring.

The 29-year-old is currently seeking another opportunity to extend his six-year major-league career in 2018. He’s coming off of two down years with the Brewers and Rangers, during which he slashed a cumulative .169/.229/.262 with four extra bases through 70 plate appearances.