DETROIT (AP) — Detroit Tigers right-hander Anibal Sanchez thinks he is getting closer to finding the mechanics that deserted him last year.
The 2013 ERA champion had a 4.99 ERA last season and was at 7.00 through four starts this year. Despite control problems, he was good enough to beat the Oakland Athletics 7-3 on Thursday.
Going back to the rotating motion that sees him turn his back on the hitter, Sanchez (3-2) scraped through 5 2/3 innings, throwing 114 pitches. He allowed two runs and three hits while striking out nine, but walked seven — one shy of his big league high. He allowed three runners to steal without a throw.
"I just tried to do my back turn to throw more innings," he said. "The mechanics I was trying early in the year didn't feel comfortable. This felt comfortable. I know it was a lot of balls, but it is the first time since last year."
Sanchez was the first Tigers starter to walk seven and strike out nine in the same start since Jack Morris against Texas on April 14, 1988.
"At times, he looked like the guy who struck out 17 guys here a few years ago, and at other times he got behind hitters," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said.
After Khris Davis' RBI single in the ninth, Francisco Rodriguez got the final out for his fifth save in six chances, inducing Stephen Vogt to pop out with runners at second and third.
Anthony Gose entered hitting .170 and had not gotten an extra-base hit since homering on opening day. He doubled in the third and homered in the fourth.
Vogt homered for Oakland, which lost for the fifth time in six games and dropped below .500 at 11-12.
Chris Bassitt (0-2) gave up seven runs, 10 hits and three walks in 3 2/3 innings. He is 0-2 with a 13.50 ERA in his last two outings, allowing 24 runners in 8 2/3 innings.
Sanchez's new delivery worked for two innings, but in the third he walked two batters and allowed two stolen bases. Josh Reddick's RBI single put Oakland ahead.
Sanchez's control problems were even more troubling because of the walks. Oakland came into the game with 49 walks in 22 games, last in the AL.
Detroit took the lead with four runs in the third. After consecutive doubles by Gose and Ian Kinsler, and Miguel Cabrera's RBI single, there were runners at the corners and no outs when Victor Martinez lifted a fly to shallow left. J.D. Martinez bluffed for the plate, drawing a throw from Mark Canha, but the ball was cut off by Chris Coghlan when Cabrera started jogging to second.
When Coghlan threw to second, Martinez sprinted home and beat Jed Lowrie's return throw on what was ruled a fielder's choice. Cabrera went to second.
"I think what Miggy was doing was reading J.D., so if J.D. tagged, he was going to tag," Ausmus said. "J.D. did such a great job bluffing, he bluffed Miggy. At that point, baseball instincts took over. Miggy stopped so they would have to come tag him, and when they made the throw, J.D. read it and beat the throw home."
Martinez got his read from Chris Coghlan — a converted outfielder who is getting used to third base.
"He cut it off way too soon, and once he saw me shut it down, it was almost like he forgot about me," Martinez said. "As soon as he turned to throw, I went."
Nick Castellanos added an RBI double. Vogt's homer cut the deficit to 4-2 in the fourth, but Gose hit a two-run drive in the bottom half.
BAD TRIP HOME
Bassitt grew up in Toledo, Ohio, about an hour south of Detroit, and had numerous friends and family at the game. He had only pitched at Comerica one other time, beating the Tigers for the Chicago White Sox in 2014.
Even though both he and Sanchez struggled with command, Bassitt wasn't blaming the 45-degree temperature and off-and-on rain showers.
"I grew up pitching in this, and I played college ball in this," he said. "Heck, in high school up here, you are pitching in snow half of the time."
HITCHOCK MOVIE BREAKS OUT
The field was swarmed by pigeons at times, a problem that doesn't usually occur until summer. At one point, J.D. Martinez had to catch a fly ball while surrounded by 13 fluttering birds in right field.
Tigers: C James McCann (ankle) got plenty of work in his rehab game for Triple-A Toledo on Thursday. In a 15-inning game, McCann went 1 for 6 with an RBI. He is now hitting .182 in three games and could join the Tigers in Minnesota this weekend.
Tigers: Michael Fulmer will make his debut at Minnesota against Phil Hughes (1-3, 3.91). Fulmer was acquired from the New York Mets in July's Yoenis Cespedes trade.