First day in Zona

You wake up at some ungodly hour in the morning (4:40 a.m. for the record) to get your flight, so you can get to Arizona in time for some AFL action. You  pick up your co-worker and fly to Mesa in time to get some interviews done and take in some Fall League baseball. And you get treated to… a 17-1 blowout. Doesn’t seem fair, does it?

There were some good things to be seen, believe it or not. It was a season-high 28 hits for the league, and the win kept Mesa’s slim playoff hopes alive. It’s not often you see three guys pick up four hits apiece, all on the same team. As good as Phoenix’s Bill Murphy was in his last outing, he was bad in this one. Eight runs on 12 hits in three innings will not help your ERA, I don’t think.

But even with all of this offense, the real story was Humberto Sanchez. The Tigers prospect never lost focus in going an AFL-high seven innings. He gave up just three hits while striking out four. Perhaps more important for a guy who’s had some command issues and is coming back from an injury-filled season is that he walked only two. His ERA goes down to 2.15 with 29 K’s in 29 1/3 IP.

And the guy didn’t exactly look tired. According to one gun reading, he threw between 91-94 mph all game. In the seventh, perhaps because he knew it was his last, he showed he had plenty left in his tank, throwing 93-94 consistently. And his fastball, if you’ve not seen it, has got some heavy sink to it. He sawed more than one bat in his outing while working his other pitches to near perfection. He’s now thrown 12 consecutive scoreless innings at a point when just about everyone else is tired. Of course, he only threw 64 2/3 innings during the regular season, he may be a bit more energized. At any rate, one teammate said it was by far his best outing in the AFL. That’s saying something since he went five scoreless in his last outing as well.

Tigers fans had already been feeling giddy about the possibility of Justin Verlander and Joel Zumaya pitching in the Detroit rotation sooner rather than later, and for years to come. If Sanchez continues to stay healthy and builds off this superb AFL performance, he could be right there with them to form one of the most formidable and hard-throwing young trios in the big leagues.

And now on to the league stats (notice how it now seems like there may not be so many records broken):

All-time batting average record: .292 (2004)
2005 average: .294

All-time worst ERA: 5.32 (2004)
2005 ERA: 5.30

All-time homers: 243 (1997)
2005 homers: 180 (on pace for 206)

Note on homers: The record for homers per game is 1.82, set in 2001. This year, balls are going out at the rate of 2.14 per game.

All-time runs per game: 12.07 (2004)
2005 RPG: 12.08

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