Amid the many struggles up and down the Tigers' rotation, Anibal Sanchez has been the lone strength. Considering his struggles early in the season while the rest of the starters were rolling, it's a reversal of fortunes.
Since his return from the disabled list on May 18, Sanchez has rolled off 20 1/3 innings over three starts with just four earned runs allowed on 13 hits. He has walked four while striking out 17, pounding the zone with 69 percent of his pitches for strikes. He took a 1-0 lead into the ninth inning with just 100 pitches last Wednesday at Oakland before the A's rallied for a 3-1 walk-off win on Josh Donaldson's two-run homer off closer Joe Nathan.
It's the kind of roll manager Brad Ausmus anticipated once Sanchez finally settled into a routine. Between Spring Training and April rainouts, and his DL stint for a blister on his right middle finger, Sanchez hasn't had a series of regular turns until the past couple of weeks.
"He's been the most consistent one over the last couple turns through the rotation," Ausmus said. "Early on, weather seemed to get him, and then he had the injury. But I think hopefully, he's in a regular schedule. He gets an extra day of rest this time.
"It's just a more consistent schedule. He knows when he's pitching, and he knows he's going to be able to pitch deep into games, assuming that he pitches well."
Tuesday's series opener will be the first meeting between the visiting Blue Jays and Tigers since last July, when a four-game series at Rogers Centre included a late, hard slide by Colby Rasmus into Omar Infante, knocking out Infante for more than a month with a sprained ankle and a bruised knee. Infante moved on to Kansas City as a free agent, but the incident hasn't likely been forgotten. However, Rasmus has been on the disabled list since mid-May.
Sanchez will face a potent Blue Jays lineup that had been his bugaboo until last year. Toronto roughed him up twice in 2012, including his first start with the Tigers, before he beat them at Comerica Park that August. Then last April, Sanchez delivered seven innings of two-run ball with eight strikeouts in Detroit.
Sanchez's career numbers against the Blue Jays still include danger zones. Melky Cabrera is 10-for-18 against him, mainly from their days in the National League. Same goes for Jose Reyes, who is 8-for-28 against Sanchez.
Drew Hutchison will take the mound for Toronto on Tuesday. The 23-year-old, originally scheduled to throw on Sunday against the Royals, had his start pushed back as the club recalled Marcus Stroman for his first Major League start.
Hutchison missed the entire 2013 season due to Tommy John surgery. He won in his last start against Tampa Bay on May 26, but it was his worst outing of the season.
Despite notching his third straight win, Hutchison blew up for a season-high 11 hits plus walks in just five innings in the Blue Jays' 10-5 win. He allowed three home runs.
"I just had a poor outing, I wasn't sharp," he said. "It was just one of those games you have to grind through. But I've been keeping my normal routine, with a few tweaks, and I'll be ready to take the ball on Tuesday.
Rajai Davis, the former Blue Jay now with Detroit, knows his pitchers have a big challenge in front of them.
"They have a bunch of hitters," Davis said. "They got guys who can hit home runs. We'll have to keep the ball down, mix up speeds and hopefully keep them off-balance enough so we can score more runs than them."
Davis played the past three seasons in Toronto before signing with the Tigers as a free agent. In that time, he saw Jose Reyes serve as a catalyst when healthy, and Edwin Encarnacion emerge as one of the game's most dangerous power hitters.
"He gets on base, he takes his walks," Davis said of Reyes, "and when he gets on base, it's very difficult to get those guys behind him out, especially the way they're swinging the bat now. Those guys coming up, they hit the ball hard, and they hit it far."
Blue Jays: Hendriks optioned to Buffalo
After recalling Stroman to start on Saturday, it was clear the Blue Jays would have to make a change to their pitching staff.
They did so on Sunday following their 4-0 win over the Royals, optioning right-hander Liam Hendriks to Triple-A Buffalo. A corresponding roster move will be made on Monday.
Hendriks, 1-0 in two starts with a 2.31 ERA, had indicated on Saturday that he'd be willing to move to the bullpen, but the club has other plans.
"The thing with Hendriks, we keep him starting if something happens or we want to insert a guy for a start to give these guys a break," manager John Gibbons said. "He could have gone down [to the bullpen] and been a long man, but we don't want him to start backsliding because we think he can help us as a starter as the season goes on."
Tigers: Detroit completes road trip
With a 4-0 loss to the Mariners on Sunday, the Tigers completed a seven-game road trip, going 3-4.
Detroit split a four-game series at Oakland, then dropped two of three at Safeco Field.
After a scorching start to May that included 13 wins in its first 16 games, Detroit faltered down the stretch. The Tigers have lost 10 of their last 14 games.
They open up a six-game homestand with three against Toronto and 13 of Detroit's next 17 games will be at Comerica Park.
• Edwin Encarnacion set a franchise record and tied Mickey Mantle for the American League record for most homers in the month of May with 16. Encarnacion started June off on the right foot as well with a two-run homer in the Blue Jays' 4-0 win over the Royals on Sunday.
• Ian Kinsler is the only Tigers hitter to have faced Hutchison. He has one double and three RBIs in four at-bats against Toronto's righty.
Jackson Alexander is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.