The Detroit Tigers almost certainly will go with a four-man rotation if they qualify for the postseason, and with three former Cy Young Award winners plus an emerging Rick Porcello on the staff, Anibal Sanchez could be the odd man out.
Some recent poor performances haven't helped his case.
Sanchez will look to break out of his funk Sunday as the Tigers go for a three-game home sweep of the Colorado Rockies.
Detroit (60-47) extended its AL Central lead to five games over Kansas City with Saturday's 11-5 victory, giving it the largest advantage of any division leader in baseball.
If the playoffs were to begin now, it's likely the Tigers would go with David Price, Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander and Porcello in their rotation. If Sanchez (7-5, 3.57 ERA) wants to make manager Brad Ausmus' decision tougher, he'll have to start pitching better - especially in the later innings.
He's 1-2 with a 6.27 ERA over his last three starts after allowing five runs in 6 1-3 innings of an 11-4 loss to the Chicago White Sox on Tuesday.
The right-hander has allowed opponents to hit .307 in that stretch. Detroit has given up seven, four and seven runs in the seventh inning of his last three starts, with Sanchez getting pulled at that point each time.
Opponents are hitting .175 against Sanchez the first time through the lineup, but that jumps to .225 the second time through and .288 during the third.
"All the time when I got really good beginnings of games, all the time I finish really strong," Sanchez said. "Right now, that's not happening. It's not because I feel tired."
Porcello gave up two runs over eight innings Saturday and was backed by solo homers from Miguel Cabrera and J.D. Martinez and a three-run shot by Victor Martinez.
Alex Avila, Ian Kinsler and Rajai Davis had three hits apiece. Davis is 5 for 9 with three RBIs in the series while starting in center field following the trade of Austin Jackson to Seattle in the Price deal.
Saturday marked the first time Detroit scored in all eight innings of a nine-inning home win since 1912.
"Everyone contributed in some fashion,' Ausmus said. 'Nice to see us get some separation. Our offense has been kind of sluggish the last week to 10 days.'
Detroit seeks its second three-game home sweep of the season as it faces Rockies starter Jorge De La Rosa, who has pitched well recently.
De La Rosa (11-6, 4.20) is 5-0 over his last seven starts and has a 2.30 ERA in his last five after giving up three runs and striking out seven in six innings of Colorado's 4-3, 16-inning loss to the Chicago Cubs on Tuesday.
It marked the first time in his five-start stretch that the left-hander allowed more than two runs. De La Rosa seeks another solid performance for a Colorado team that has been outscored by 44 runs while dropping 17 of 19 on the road.
Drew Stubbs went 3 for 4 with two runs and two RBIs for the Rockies (44-66), who played without Carlos Gonzalez after he aggravated a sprained right ankle in Friday's series opener.
Troy Tulowitzki is on the disabled list with a left hip flexor strain, but Gonzalez is hoping to avoid going on the DL.
"I can't catch a break," Gonzalez, who has missed 44 games with various injuries, told MLB's official website. "It's been tough, just one thing after another. I don't think it can get any worse than this."
The Associated Press News Service
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