Blue Jays-Rangers Preview
Despite his success as a reliever last season, the Toronto Blue Jays decided to take a chance on Aaron Sanchez by putting him in the rotation out of spring training.
That move is looking nothing short of brilliant these days.
Seeking their fourth straight win with Sanchez on the mound, the Blue Jays will try to bounce back Sunday against the Texas Rangers and win both series on this trip.
The 23-year-old Sanchez had three saves and a 1.09 ERA in 24 relief appearances in 2014 and a 2.39 mark in 30 games as a reliever last season. However, he opened some eyes as a starter this spring by posting a 1.35 ERA in the Grapefruit League.
The right-hander hasn't looked back after beating out veterans Gavin Floyd, Jesse Chavez and Drew Hutchison for the fifth starter job. He's allowed one earned run or less in five of his seven outings and has gone 2-0 with a 1.71 ERA in his last three.
Sanchez also improved to 3-0 with a 0.96 ERA in four road starts after giving up one run and three hits over seven innings in Monday's 3-1 win at San Francisco.
"I felt like I could have been better," he told MLB's official website after issuing five walks. "Too many balls. It was one of those starts where I had to battle a ton."
Sanchez is striving for better command as he tries to help Toronto (19-19) win its third straight road series after Saturday's 6-5 loss in Arlington. Former Ranger Justin Smoak hit a two-run homer in the ninth inning and Troy Tulowitzki followed with a tying shot before Drew Stubbs responded with a walk-off blast in the 10th.
"Just to step in in a spot like that after a week, it felt good," said Stubbs, who signed with the Rangers (21-16) last week. "I knew I got the good part of the bat on it."
Sanchez is 1-0 with a 2.13 ERA in seven games versus Texas, including appearances in each one of last year's AL Division Series that Toronto won in five. In his only start, he allowed three runs over seven innings in a 4-3 home win May 4.
Rougned Odor went 2 for 4 with a double off Sanchez (3-1, 2.58 ERA).
The Rangers had totaled eight runs and hit .199 while dropping four of the first five in the season series before Bobby Wilson's second-inning grand slam Saturday put them in position to win until Shawn Tolleson blew the save in the ninth.
Now they'll give the ball to Cesar Ramos as they chase their seventh win in nine games. He surrendered three runs over six innings in a 3-1 home loss to the Yankees on April 25, but gave up four over two innings of relief versus the White Sox on Monday.
Ramos (0-2, 5.11) is 1-1 with a 3.38 ERA in 23 career relief appearances against the Blue Jays. The left-hander worked 4 1/3 shutout innings in a 12-2 road loss May 5.
Edwin Encarnacion is 3 for 6 with a home run and a double off him, but Jose Bautista's only hit in seven at-bats was a homer. Smoak is 1 for 11 in the matchup.
Michael Saunders is 12 for 27 over a seven-game hitting streak, while Tulowitzki has gone 5 for 15 with three homers, two doubles and seven RBIs in his last four.