The Detroit Tigers acquired Anibal Sanchez a season ago to help in their chase for a playoff spot.
Over a year later, the streaking right-hander has a chance to hurl the Tigers closer to a third straight AL Central title on Tuesday night in the second contest of a four-game series with the Seattle Mariners.
The Tigers sent a package of players to the Miami Marlins in late July last year to acquire Sanchez and second baseman Omar Infante, with Sanchez going 4-6 with a 3.74 earned run average in 12 starts after the trade. He then shined in the postseason, giving up just four runs over 20 1/3 innings in three starts, but went just 1-2.
The 29-year-old is putting together his best Major League season in 2013, winning a career-high 14 games while posting a 2.50 ERA through 26 starts. He is currently riding a seven-decision win streak that has spanned 10 outings and features a 2.00 ERA since his last setback on July 19.
Sanchez won his third straight start last Wednesday versus the Chicago White Sox, hurling 7 1/3 scoreless innings and striking out 10. He worked around five hits and four walks.
"Early in the game he struggled with his command, but as the game went on he got sharper. Those last two innings were really good," said Tigers catcher Alex Avila.
Sanchez has faced the Mariners just once before, with the Marlins in 2011. He did not get a decision despite six innings of one-run ball.
The Venezuelan will try to reduce the Tigers' magic number of seven to claim the AL Central crown. Detroit moved closer to locking up the postseason bid with Monday's 4-2 victory over Seattle coupled with a loss by Cleveland to Kansas City.
Rick Porcello struck out 10 batters over six innings, the lone blemish a solo homer to Abraham Almonte in the third inning.
"The changeup, he had a really good one," said Detroit manager Jim Leyland. "That might've been the best one I've seen him have."
Victor Martinez and Infante singled home runs in the sixth inning to put the Tigers ahead for good as the club moved six games up on the second-place Indians.
"We're trying to close this division out and get into the playoffs," said Porcello, whose club has won five of its last six.
Joe Saunders was pegged with the loss, allowing three runs on seven hits over 5 2/3 frames.
"I thought Joe Saunders threw the ball well," said Seattle manager Eric Wedge. "It's a tough lineup and I thought he did a good job of pitching inside."
Seattle has lost seven of its last eight and will give Brandon Maurer the start tonight.
The rookie right-hander is 4-8 with a 7.18 ERA in 19 games (11 starts) this season. He made his first start since May 28 last Wednesday and suffered a 6-1 loss to Houston, giving up five runs on seven hits and three innings.
That outing came after he had pitched to a 6.64 ERA in eight relief appearances between starts.
"When (Maurer) gets into trouble he is not able to control the damage and he can't stop it. It dominos on him," Wedge said.
The 23-year-old will face Detroit for the first time.
The Tigers took two of three from the Mariners in Seattle back in April, but were swept in three games in the lone meeting between the clubs last year in Detroit.