The last time Anibal Sanchez faced the Twins, he appeared to have the makings of a no-hit bid, holding down the Twins for 2 2/3 innings before a blister burst on his throwing hand. The wound not only knocked Sanchez out of the game, but it also landed him on the disabled list for three weeks.
It's a different Twins lineup Sanchez will be facing Saturday, now bolstered with Kendrys Morales signed off the free-agent wire and Josh Willingham and Oswaldo Arcia back from injury. But it's also a more effective Sanchez, who has found success in a set routine after his return from the DL.
Sanchez is 2-0 with a 1.62 ERA since coming back from the DL, allowing 21 hits over 33 1/3 innings with 29 strikeouts. He took a no-decision last Sunday night against the Red Sox after six innings of two-run ball with seven strikeouts. Given the ups and downs with the rest of the rotation, Sanchez has a case as the most reliable starter on the Tigers at this point.
The Twins will counter with Samuel Deduno (2-4), who has fallen off a bit after a promising start.
He brought a 3.83 ERA into last Sunday's game against the Astros, but watched it rise to 4.45 after Houston put up five earned runs on him in four innings. Control has become a recent issue, as Deduno has given away four walks in both his past two starts.
"Today was bad," Deduno said on Sunday. "I didn't have any control of my release. I couldn't throw my curveball for a strike. Or my fastball. Or my changeup. Anything."
Deduno's performance this Saturday could go a long way toward his future with the team. Triple-A Rochester has multiple options waiting to get the call to the Majors.
"Every series is important," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "We have to try to win series. We're still below .500. It's a fight to get back to .500. The only way to do that is to continue winning series. We're still figuring a few things out. We're making roster moves as we see fit. We feel like we're doing OK right now but we can get better. We're working on it."
For now, Deduno is focused on finding his control again.
"I'm feeling pretty good," he said. "The last time was a bad start, but I'm feeling pretty good."
Twins: Morales making a difference
When Minnesota signed Morales last Sunday, many wondered how long it would take to shake off the rust.
The answer? Not long. After sitting out most of the season due to free agency rules that forced potential suitors to give up a Draft pick, Morales has been on fire for the Twins. Entering Saturday, the slugger is hitting .412 (7-for-17).
"He's pretty good," Deduno said. "I think we're going to be much better with him. He's got, like, three games under his belt, but he's hitting pretty good."
Morales went 1-for-4 on Friday night with a strikeout.
Tigers: Avila picking up his pace
Detroit catcher Alex Avila has never been known for his hitting, but until the past couple weeks, he was turning in a pretty rough season at the plate.
Just as he neared the Mendoza Line with a .202 batting average, he turned things around. A two-hit game against Toronto on June 4 drove his average to .212, and then he followed with at least one hit in four of his next six games.
That counts a 2-for-3 performance on Friday night against Minnesota, which pushed him to .225 on the season.
• While Morales has been excellent at the plate, he's only picked up an RBI in one of his four games (three total RBIs).
• Sanchez' 2.24 ERA is at a career low (2.57 last season), and he would be ranked No. 6 among American League starters if he were eligible. His HR/9 (0.2) is also at a career-low level.
Alex M. Smith is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.