Originally posted on Fox Sports South  |  Last updated 4/26/13
Here are three things we learned from the Tigers' 10-0 rout of the visiting Braves on Friday night, a one-sided result that didn't really live up to the World Series Preview hype: 1. The Braves ran into an Anibal Sanchez buzzsaw, plain and simple Sanchez, the ex-Marlin who signed with the Tigers after flourishing with Detroit during August, September and October last year (post-trade: two or less runs allowed in nine of his final 11 starts), had a 3-11 lifetime record against the Braves, leading into Friday's series opener. But none of that mattered on this night, as Sanchez registered a career-high 17 strikeouts over eight scoreless innings, fanning Freddie Freeman (four), Dan Uggla (four) and Juan Francisco 11 times. All told, Atlanta struck out 18 times, ignominiously setting an all-time, single-game record in that realm. The first two innings were a struggle for Sanchez, eating into his pitch count and needing some good defense to escape some mini-jams. After that, though, it was smooth sailing for one of baseball's most underrated power righties. Of his last 20 outings (dating back to July 17 of last year), Sanchez has notched seven-plus strikeouts 11 times. 2. No MLB team, contender or pretender, is immune from the occasional clunker From the Braves' standpoint, nights like this are going to happen over the course of a marathon schedule. From pitcher Paul Maholm's perspective, let's hope Friday's brief outing (eight runs, 10 hits allowed in just 3.2 innings) wasn't the unofficial breaking point to an amazing run of three wins ... and only three runs allowed from April 3-20 (spanning four starts and 26.1 innings). Against the Tigers, Maholm sailed through the first two innings, without incident. In the third, an Omar Infante double, a Torii Hunter single and Miguel Cabrera walk set the stage for perhaps the two most crucial at-bats of the evening: With the bases loaded and one out, Maholm fanned Prince Fielder on a gorgeous slow curve, briefly killing the Detroit rally. But Victor Martinez fought back, cracking a two-run single up the middle, giving the Tigers a 2-0 lead. After that, a Maholm wild pitch, Jhonny Peralta walk and Matt Tuiasosopo RBI single compounded by Justin Upton's throwing error opened the floodgates for four total runs. An inning later, the Tigers kept pounding Braves pitching with an array of singles and doubles, before the rookie Tuiasosopo clubbed a two-run homer. When the damage was done, Detroit would only need the third and fourth innings to clinch the 10-0 victory. 3. In other news, Brian McCann belted two homers in his seasonal debut with the Rome Braves OK, so McCann's skill level ranks slightly ahead of Single-A pitching, specifically the South Atlantic League's Greensboro Grasshoppers. Nevertheless, he couldn't have asked for a better rehab start to kick off the 2013 campaign, accounting for two hits, two dingers, three runs and four RBI. And with this bit of encouraging news involving McCann, who had shoulder surgery during the offseason, it further complicates Atlanta's handling of a wonderful problem: With McCann, Evan Gattis and Gerald Laird, the Braves have three strong catchers under contract for this season ... and a top-flight prospect (Christian Bethancourt) waiting in the wings for next year. I echoed a similar statement in February: While watching the Braves at spring training, you would have never known that McCann was slated to miss all of April, due to injury. He bounded around the team clubhouse like a 25-year-old kid who was ready for world-class pitching that day. And his prodigious night in Rome against a pair of pitchers in their early 20s suggests McCann may be ready for big-league pitching on May 8 (against the Reds). Regarding Gattis (six homers in 18 games), the rookie turns 27 in August, so it's not like the Braves can afford to stash him in the minors for a sustained period of time. He logged some starts at first base during Freddie Freeman's stint on the disabled list; but with Freeman (0 for 4 on Friday) and McCann on the mend, it's fair to wonder where Gattis will get his daily cuts. But that's a worry for another day.
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