DETROIT -- The fans stood up in waves for Anibal Sanchez, starting with the ones closest to the Tigers dugout and working their way out. By the time Sanchez had made his way into foul territory, much of the sellout crowd of 41,502 at Comerica Park seemed to be on their feet.
Detroit's offense had done most of the heavy lifting in Friday's 10-2 rout of the Indians, highlighted by Prince Fielder's four-RBI night. But Sanchez's six-plus innings gave the Tribe no shot at a comeback and pretty well ensured his first win as a Tiger. The applause seemed as much a welcome in his first home start since the trade as it was recognition of a good effort.
It caught him off-guard. Whereas most Tigers starters do some sort of recognition to the crowd right before the dugout steps, Sanchez took his cap off and tipped it to the crowd soon after he crossed the third-base line.
"That was really amazing," Sanchez said. "I don't have any comparison. When I threw my [no-hitter] in 2006, it's not even like that. It's a lot of people. It's a lot of fans. The ovation, it's incredible. That's my first time. I feel like that's something really new for me."
To say he isn't used to crowds like that isn't completely accurate, not with the new ballpark in Miami these days. It's the reaction of the crowd, the passion of Tigers fans, that really caught him.
It caught him enough, he said, that he called his wife about it.
"It feels like home," Sanchez said. "I heard about it before. The players told me about the fans here. It was incredible. It was incredible the situation. I don't have the exact word to express it. But everything is amazing."
Manager Jim Leyland has tried to temper the expectations, cautioning that not every Trade Deadline deal works out like the Doug Fister trade did last year. But then, neither do they all flop, like the Jarrod Washburn addition of 2009. For most Tigers fans, somewhere in between would do just fine.
"I really like Sanchez a lot," Leyland said. "Watching his first start [last Saturday at Toronto], I left him in there an inning too long, which was my fault, but I like him. I think he'll be good for us."
Sanchez gave up three home runs over six-plus innings in his Tigers debut at Toronto. On Friday, he limited the Indians to one extra-base hit, a Jason Kipnis double in the fifth inning that he rendered meaningless by retiring Asdrubal Cabrera and Shin-Soo Choo.
Everything else was either a line drive or ground-ball single through the infield.
"He did a nice job. He changed speeds well," Indians manager Manny Acta said. "That's what he does all the time. I saw him in the National League and that's what he does. He's got a good changeup, slider, cutter. He throws everything at you and, when he needs to get up there in the low- to mid-90s, he does that, too, inside. He just kept us off-balance the whole night."
The only organized rally the Indians posted, with back-to-back singles from Kipnis and Cabrera to start the night, was erased on a double play when Cabrera was ruled to have run out of the basepath to avoid Omar Infante's tag.
"I think, as it turned out, we probably won that game in the first inning," Leyland said. "We caught a big break."
An Andy Dirks error put a leadoff runner into scoring position for Choo's two-out single in the third, and Ezequiel Carrera's single in the seventh put runners at the corner for another tally.
By that time, the Tigers had a safe lead and had knocked Justin Masterson out of the game. That was the difference. Sanchez had posted much the same outing against Cleveland while wearing a Miami uniform in June, but lost because the Marlins were shut out.
Detroit returned home looking to retake some momentum, and Leyland shook up the lineup to try to do it. He stacked up left-handed hitters to try to help protect Fielder in the batting order. The way Fielder was swinging, he fared fine on his own.
Considering the top three hitters of Austin Jackson, Quintin Berry and Miguel Cabrera reached base safely eight times in the first six innings, the Indians didn't have anywhere to put Fielder when he came up. Masterson got a double play from him to strand two runners in the opening inning, but couldn't get that same luck after that.
Fielder barely missed what would've been a three-run homer in the third inning, sending a line drive high off the wall in right-center field, above the out-of-town scoreboard, for a two-run double that put Detroit in front for good.
Fielder didn't miss an inning later, feasting on a hanging sinker from Masterson and sending it into the right-field seats. His 18th homer of the year was part of five consecutive two-out hits for the Tigers before Masterson ended the threat.
The Tigers had doled out their share of damage off Masterson since 2009, but seven earned runs was a high mark for them against the sidearming right-hander. Dirks, back after two months on the disabled list, added an RBI single in a three-run sixth off Jeremy Accardo to put Detroit into double digits.
"Sometimes, I feel like there is an over outside force trying to bring me down," Masterson said. "I just have to fight through that."
Sanchez had to feel the opposite. He might not feel the same way when he faces the Yankees opposite CC Sabathia next Wednesday, but this was a good way to start his Tiger tenure.
"It's always good to have a good first impression," Fielder said.