In what was otherwise a meaningless tuneup for the Tigers, Anibal Sanchez entered Saturday’s start against the Marlins with the slightest of all leads for the AL ERA crown: 2.64 to Bartolo Colon’s 2.65 mark. The margin is a little wider now: Sanchez threw five scoreless innings and struck out eight in a brisk 66-pitch start, lowering his ERA to 2.57.
Since neither Colon nor Hisashi Iwakuma, who is at 2.66, will pitch again, Sanchez’s ERA crown is assured. He also topped 200 strikeouts on the night to finish with 202 in 182 innings for the season. Unfortunately, the Tigers blew the one-run lead they had when Sanchez exited tonight, denying him his 15th win to go along with eight losses.
That’s still quite a year for a guy who entered with a lifetime 48-51 record and a 3.75 ERA in seven seasons, 6 1/2 of them with the Marlins. After being acquired from Miami at the 2012 trade deadline, he re-signed with the Tigers for $80 million over five years last winter, spurning the Cubs in the process.
Even with the ERA title, Sanchez may not start until the third game of the postseason for the Tigers. Still, the team should be feeling pretty good about him, particularly after he posted a 1.77 ERA in three October starts last year.
The Arizona Fall League competition came to a close on Saturday, concluding with the Peoria Javelinas’ 8-2 win over the Mesa Solar Sox for the championship title. No one stood out more than Braves’ no. 1 prospect Ronald Acuna, who took home honors as the AFL MVP after slashing .325/.414/.639 with a league-leading seven home runs and second-best 1.053 OPS in 83 at-bats.
At just 19 years old, Acuna is the youngest prospect to receive the award. He made his presence felt even before he suited up for the AFL, earning promotions to the Braves’ Double-A Mississippi and Triple-A Gwinnett and batting a remarkable .325/.374/.522 with 21 home runs across three levels in 2017.
Acuna was also a major factor in the Javelinas’ win on Saturday, but he wasn’t the first to make some noise. The Solar Sox got to right-hander T.J. Zeuch in the first inning, leading off with three singles and a run-scoring sac fly to get a 2-0 edge over the Javelinas. It was the only lead they’d get all afternoon and it lasted just two innings. Luis Urias snapped the shutout with a sac fly in the bottom of the second inning, and the Javelinas took the lead with a game-tying RBI single from Acuna and two-run base hit from Braves’ no. 16 prospect Alex Jackson in the third.
From then on, it was smooth sailing for Peoria. Andrew Case, Andres Munoz and Art Warren combined for 3 1/3 scoreless innings in relief, while the offense tacked on another handful of runs with Acuna’s fourth-inning two-RBI single and Michael Chavis’ eighth-inning triple. With runners at the corners and one out, the Solar Sox lifted right-hander Dakota Bacus for fellow righty Nolan Blackwood. Even he was flummoxed by Acuna, however, who grabbed hold of the first pitch he saw and returned another sac fly to center field for the Javelinas’ eighth and final run of the game.
Only 131 days left until Opening Day, folks.