Sanchez is unbeaten in his last 11 outings - a run that began with a victory over a Chicago White Sox team that he'll face again Sunday at home, with the Tigers seeking to clinch a tie for the AL Central title.
Detroit (91-64) has a magic number of two to clinch a third straight division crown. It can earn the title outright Sunday with a victory and a loss by Cleveland to major league-worst Houston.
Twenty-game winner Max Scherzer and 2011 AL MVP Justin Verlander would be solid choices to start a postseason opener for most teams, but Sanchez (14-7, 2.51 ERA) may be the best option for the Tigers.
Sanchez owns the lowest ERA in the AL, and enters this outing off back-to-back 10-strikeout performances. He did not get a decision Tuesday after allowing two runs over 6 1-3 innings in a 4-2 home win over Seattle.
The right-hander lost to the White Sox on July 11 before throwing 13 1-3 scoreless innings in his next two outings against them. His six-inning stint in a 6-2 victory July 24 began this unbeaten run and he also worked 7 1-3 innings Sept. 11 in a 1-0 victory at Chicago.
Sanchez, who has a 2.07 ERA over his last 11 starts, has limited Adam Dunn to one hit in eight at-bats this year with six strikeouts. Alexei Ramirez is 1 for 9 off him in 2013, Dayan Viciedo 1 for 7 and Paul Konerko and Conor Gillaspie are both 0 for 5. Alejandro De Aza is 4 for 6 with two doubles against him this year.
The Tigers put together a stunning rally Saturday that resulted in their ninth win in 11 games. They were down by six runs entering the bottom of the ninth before coming back for a 7-6, 12-inning victory.
Detroit won after trailing by six in the ninth for the first time since Aug. 22, 1947, against the Washington Senators. Andy Dirks had a three-run homer as part of the six-run rally.
"All year we've battled," Dirks said. "We always say it doesn't matter if we're down or we're up, we're going to keep on grinding out at-bats and try to win the game no matter what."
Miguel Cabrera exited shortly after his ninth-inning RBI single made it 6-1. He left with groin soreness, and said he'd see how he feels Sunday.
Chicago (60-94) lost after leading by at least six runs in the ninth inning or later for the first time since 1918."Just when you think you've seen everything," manager Robin Ventura said. "The game's hard unless you get 27 outs."
Rookie Erik Johnson (1-2, 2.87) will make his fourth start for the White Sox. He excelled in the last one with six scoreless innings Monday for his first big league win, 12-1 over Minnesota.
The right-hander will get another shot at the Tigers after he lasted 3 2-3 innings and was charged with six runs - two earned - in a 9-1 defeat Sept. 10. Prince Fielder went 3 for 3 with a homer off him in that contest.
|Chicago White Sox|
|September 20, 2013||Andre Rienzo||Day-to-Day||Blister right hand|
|September 08, 2013||Avisail Garcia||Day-to-Day||Pulled teeth|
|September 02, 2013||Tyler Flowers||Day-to-Day||Right shoulder surgery - out for season|
|September 02, 2013||Tyler Flowers||60-Day DL||Right shoulder surgery - out for season|
|August 20, 2013||Jeff Keppinger||Day-to-Day||Stiff lower back|
|August 16, 2013||Ramon Troncoso||15-Day DL||Pericarditis|
|September 19, 2013||Jose Iglesias||Day-to-Day||Hand|
|September 19, 2013||Phil Coke||Day-to-Day||Elbow|
|September 04, 2013||Jose Iglesias||Day-to-Day||Bilateral shin splints|
|August 24, 2013||Jose Iglesias||Day-to-Day||Sore left elbow|
|August 17, 2013||Omar Infante||Day-to-Day||Left game - lower back stiffness|
|August 11, 2013||Alex Avila||7-Day DL||Concussion|
DETROIT (AP) -- Outside the Detroit clubhouse, inside a yellow van parked in a loading area, a few boxes labeled "Dom Perignon" provided a reminder of an opportunity missed - but not lost.
The Tigers fell short in their effort to clinch the AL Central title during the final homestand of the season, losing 6-3 to the Chicago White Sox on Sunday. There would be no champagne-soaked celebration - only a resolute belief that postseason baseball will be back in Motown this year anyway.
"Everybody wanted to clinch at home," Detroit's Brayan Pena said. "But it doesn't matter how we do it. We just want to do it, because if we do it, everybody knows that we're coming back here. And those fans, they really deserve that."
Detroit needed a win and a Cleveland loss to wrap up the division Sunday, and neither happened. So the Tigers' magic number for the AL Central championship remains at two at the start of a six-game road trip.
One thing is certain: Detroit's season will not be over after 162 games. The loss by Texas at Kansas City on Sunday means the worst the Tigers can do is finish in a tie for a wild card.
Chicago's Erik Johnson (2-2) allowed two runs and nine hits in 6 2-3 innings in his fourth career start, and the White Sox held on a day after blowing a six-run lead in the ninth inning against the Tigers.
Anibal Sanchez (14-8) yielded four runs and eight hits in five innings, taking his first loss since July 19.
Prince Fielder homered for the Tigers. Detroit was without slugger Miguel Cabrera , who has been bothered by groin soreness. Cabrera said he hopes he can play Monday.
The Tigers gave themselves a chance to clinch at Comerica Park with a stirring comeback Saturday night, when they scored six runs in the ninth inning to tie the game before winning 7-6 in 12.
"No matter where we are, as long as we clinch and we get it done, that'll let me know that postseason is there," outfielder Torii Hunter said. "All I care about is the World Series. I think if you set your goals high, and you chase the ultimate goal, which is the World Series, I think everything else falls in line."
Detroit never led Sunday, and by the middle innings the chances of a postgame celebration were looking increasingly remote for the defending American League champions.
"Disappointment is such a big word," Hunter said. "I don't know if we're disappointed. We wish we could have had a chance to do it here in front of the fans who have been supporting us all year."
Fielder tied it at 1 in the fourth with his 25th homer of the year, but Chicago answered with three runs in the fifth. Center fielder Austin Jackson got a bit of a late jump on Conor Gillaspie 's line drive, which sailed over his head for a two-run triple. Avisail Garcia 's RBI single made it 4-1.
Jeff Keppinger added a two-run double in the seventh.
There would be no big rally by the Tigers on this day. Detroit did load the bases in the seventh, and Jackson hit a sacrifice fly. Donnie Veal relieved Johnson and got Hunter, who was pinch-hitting, to line out to end the inning.
On Saturday, the Tigers scored five runs in the ninth before an out or a pitching change. This time, pinch-hitter Pena led off with a double, and White Sox manager Robin Ventura immediately pulled Veal. Matt Lindstrom got the final three outs, although Detroit did manage another run.
"We had that feeling in the dugout," Hunter said. "Guys were talking about it: `Uh oh. Can we do it two nights in a row?"'
The 23-year-old Johnson pitched six scoreless innings against Minnesota in his previous start, and although he struck out only one against the Tigers, he was able to avoid the big inning.
"He did a good job going against a tough lineup," Ventura said. "He stayed out of trouble. That's great composure for a kid as old as he is."
Sanchez had won seven straight decisions and entered with an American League-leading ERA of 2.51, but he didn't look sharp. Chicago took the lead right away when Sanchez allowed a one-out single to Alexei Ramirez , threw a wild pitch and gave up an RBI single to Garcia.
NOTES: Garcia, Keppinger and Detroit's Alex Avila had three hits each. ... Detroit plays at Minnesota on Monday night, with RHP Justin Verlander (13-12) taking on RHP Mike Pelfrey (5-13). ... The White Sox host Toronto. Chicago LHP Jose Quintana (8-6) faces LHP J.A. Happ (4-6).