ARLINGTON -- For Anibal Sanchez, it was just one of those nights.
Despite entering the game with seven straight quality starts, the right-hander gave up six runs, five earned, on nine hits over only 2 2/3 innings in the Tigers' 7-2 loss to the Rangers at the Ballpark in Arlington on Saturday night. It marked the third-shortest start of his career and his shortest outing since Aug. 10, 2011.
"I didn't have good command. That was the problem," Sanchez said. "My fastball was up. My changeup didn't move too much. My breaking ball, I threw it for strikes, but it wasn't in the right locations. It was just a bad outing. That's part of the game."
Two days after the Rangers scored eight runs off Tigers ace Justin Verlander, who also lasted just 2 2/3 innings, Sanchez was roughed up. Elvis Andrus led off the first inning with a single to left, the first of his career-high five hits, and scored on a passed ball. In his next at-bat, Andrus fouled off several full-count offerings from Sanchez before tripling off right fielder Torii Hunter's glove on the 11th pitch of the at-bat, highlighting a three-run rally in the second inning.
"It's something called L-I-G-H-T-S," Hunter said of Andrus' three-bagger. "You can't do anything about that. I just fought it the best way I could and I just put my glove where I saw it last and it didn't work out. You can't catch something you can't see."
Hunter drove in Avisail Garcia with an RBI double in the third inning and scored on a single by Prince Fielder to cut the Rangers' lead in half at 4-2. But Mitch Moreland led off the bottom half of the frame with a 415-foot home run to left. Andrus continued the scoring barrage with an RBI single later in the inning. He was the last batter Sanchez faced.
"Knocking him out early was huge," Andrus said. "You cannot give those guys opportunities. In the first game and in this one, we really stepped up and took them out."
Rangers rookie right-hander Justin Grimm held the Tigers to two runs on seven hits over 6 2/3 innings. Only one Tigers baserunner advanced past first base after they scored twice in that third inning.
"[Grimm's] 89-90 [mph] was kind of sneaky and he hit his spots, in on the big guys, hit the outside corner," Hunter said. "He had a two-seamer, a cutter, a curveball and a changeup. He didn't make too many mistakes."
The Tigers got away with having to use their bullpen early in Friday's 2-1 win, when four relievers combined to throw 3 1/3 scoreless innings following Rick Porcello's strong start. But Sanchez's ineffective outing was too much to overcome. The Rangers scored early and often, adding to their lead with an RBI double from Lance Berkman in the sixth.
"They've got some champions over there," Hunter said. "They've been to the World Series, won the ALCS. They know how to win and how to battle back. They got to two of our best pitchers, Sanchez and Verlander. We've just got to keep battling, keep bobbing and weaving. This is baseball, baby. This is the way the game goes. You've got to be strong to play this game."
Drew Smyly, who threw 12 pitches Friday, gave up one run on two hits in 3 1/3 innings after replacing Sanchez with two outs in the third. Phil Coke tossed two scoreless frames, striking out two and walking one. In the first three games of this four-game series against the Rangers, Tigers starters have combined to allow 14 earned runs in just 11 innings, posting a collective 11.45 ERA.
"The bullpen saved us again," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "We've ran into a little funk where we get into our bullpen a little bit earlier and our pitch count gets up too early. It causes you to go to your bullpen because you have to, not because you want to."
The Tigers, who entered Saturday tied with the Indians for the division lead, have lost three of their last four games and seven of their last 11. With the Indians' walk-off win over the Mariners on Saturday, the Tigers now trail them by one game in the AL Central. They'll look to split the series with the Rangers on Sunday night.
"That's what we want to do, finish with a split," Hunter said. "If we can finish with a split, I think we'll be happy. We'll wish we could've done more, but we'll be happy with that."
Christian Corona is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.