Jays' Sanchez finally gets called to All-Star Game

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Blue Jays RHP Marcus Stroman remembers the debate back in spring training as to who would be named Toronto’s fifth starter.

Aaron Sanchez was in the mix, but he wasn’t a slam dunk by any means.

“Everyone said, ‘He couldn’t start. He couldn’t start,’ ” said Stroman, Sanchez’s best friend. “I told everyone from Day 1 when I walked into spring training how special he was. He’s one of the best starters in baseball by far and he’ll continue to be.”

It was hard to tell who was more overjoyed with Sanchez being named to the AL team for next week’s all-star Game in San Diego — Stroman or Sanchez. No matter, the selection — the result of Boston Red Sox closer Craig Kimbrel being put on the 15-day DL with a left knee medial meniscus tear — was well deserved. Even with a no decision in a 3-2 loss to the Detroit Tigers on Saturday at the Rogers Centre, the 24-year-old Sanchez has been a revelation for the Jays this season. From fighting to earn the fifth starter’s spot in spring training, to developing into one of the best starters in the AL, the Barstow, Calfi., native has posted an outstanding 9-1 record with a 2.94 ERA and 103 strikeouts in 118.1 innings pitched. The Blue Jays weren’t impressed that he wasn’t named to the team earlier, but the decision by AL manager Ned Yost (who manages the defending World Series champions Kansas City Royals) to name Sanchez as Kimbrel’s replacement created a major buzz in the Jays’ clubhouse, even after a tough loss.

“We’re all happy and excited for him, he’s had a tremendous first half,” said Jays manager John Gibbons. “I think he’s just scratching the surface, I really do.”

Sanchez, who pitched five complete against the Tigers on Saturday giving up five hits and two runs, seemed overwhelmed by the news. The Jays felt that Sanchez should have been named to the team when Toronto’s Marco Estrada was put on the DL this week with a sore back, but Cleveland’s Corey Kluber was named as Estrada’s replacement by Yost.

“To be honest, I kind of gave up after the first couple of times, Marco got hurt and I thought I had the chance and after that I didn’t really want to think about it,” said Sanchez. “But it’s definitely a pleasant surprise. Going into every year, that’s one of the things you set goals for and to be in that category with these guys is unbelievable.”

Against the Tigers, Sanchez deserved better but was let down by a Toronto offence that managed just six hits. The Tigers, whose pitching staff has been hit with the injury bug, recalled left-hander Matt Boyd from triple-A Toledo to start. Boyd had started three games at the Rogers Centre, going 0-3 with an 11.37 ERA (12.2IP/16ER) and 11 strikeouts. He faced the Jays earlier this season on June 7 at Comerica Park and received a no decision after giving up one run on three hits and five walks with five strike outs in 5.1 innings, and he did a bang-up job again on Saturday, throwing five innings, allowing just one run on four hits.

The loss snapped a seven-game win streak for the Jays. Detroit held a 2-1 lead until the seventh when second baseman Devon Travis hit a home run over the left wall with one out off reliever Bruce Rondon to tie it 2-2, his sixth homer of the season. But the Tigers got that back in the top of the eighth when DH Victor Martinez launched a Jason Grilli pitch over the wall in right-centre to put Detroit ahead 3-2. Grilli, 2-1, picked up the loss, Rondon, 3-1, the win and Francisco Rodriguez threw a perfect ninth to earn his 24th save.

The Jays came within a few feet of tying it in the bottom of the eighth when first baseman Edwin Encaranacion hit a Justin Wilson pitch to the warning track in centre.

The Jays defence came through in a huge way in the top of the second. Justin Upton slapped a blooper to shallow right that Toronto outfielder Junior Lake seemed to miss read. The ball bounced in fair, loading the bases with none out. But then Steven Moya drilled a line drive to Ezequiel Carrera in left. Carrera made the running catch and threw a strike to home, allowing Martin to tag Martinez out at the plate. But with two out and the bases loaded again, Sanchez hit the Tigers’ nine hitter, short stop Andrew Romine, to score Nick Castellanos from third.

Carrera shot a triple into the corner in right field in the fifth to score Junior Lake from second after Lake got to second via an infield single and a bad throw to first by Detroit third baseman Castellanos.

Sanchez thought he had gotten out of the fourth inning without any damage done when he appeared to get Jarrod Saltalamacchia out on a two-out, strike three pitch, but home plate umpire Mark Ripperger called it a ball. The Detroit catcher then hit a single to score Upton to put the Tigers ahead 2-0.

“I think that changes the game for sure,” said Sanchez. “It is what it is at this point, but I definitely do think that it changes the game. It’s 15 extra less pitches, maybe two more innings on the other end of it but in a big league game like that you can’t let something like that affect you.”