(SportsNetwork.com) - Anibal Sanchez tries to pitch the Detroit Tigers to a three-game sweep of the Kansas City Royals on Thursday at Comerica Park.
Sanchez is coming off a career year for the Tigers that saw him lead the American League with a 2.57 ERA, while going 14-8. He also topped 200 strikeouts, as he matched his career-high from 2011 with 202 punchouts.
However, the talented right-hander has been slowed this spring with inflammation in his throwing shoulder and hasn't faced big league hitters since March 12.
"We'll have to keep our eye on him as the pitch count gets higher," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said on Wednesday, "especially if the weather's as bad as the forecast."
Sanchez is 3-1 with a 0.92 ERA in his last four matchups versus the Royals, who will rely on 22-year-old flamethrower Yordano Ventura.
Ventura, whose fastball has been clocked at 100-plus miles per hour, was 1-0 with a 3.52 ERA in three starts for the Royals last season. He impressed this spring, though, pitching to a 2.70 ERA, while striking out 23 batters over 23 1/3 innings.
Detroit is a very good team, and to appear in the opening series is very exciting," Ventura said.
Detroit won in walkoff fashion for the second time in as many games on Wednesday, as Ian Kinsler singled home Austin Jackson in the 10th inning to lift the Tigers to a 2-1 win.
Kinsler accounted for all of the offense. He homered earlier in the game, and finished 3-for-5 for Detroit, which also beat the Royals in its final at-bat on Monday.
With Kansas City reliever Tim Collins (0-1) on the hill to start the bottom of the 10th, Jackson started the frame with a walk and moved to second on an Alex Avila sacrifice bunt. After a walk and an Alex Gonzalez pop out to short, Kinsler drove a 1-1 pitch into the gap in left-center to score the winning run.
"You put yourself behind the 8-ball when you walk the leadoff guy and that's exactly what happened," said Royals manager Ned Yost.
Detroit lost the season series to the Royals last year, 10-9. I fact, the Tigers haven't swept the Royals since taking all four meetings at home Sept. 24-27, 2012.