Behind solid starting pitching and strong performances at home, Class A Lansing cruised to the Midwest League's first-half Eastern Division title.
With the playoffs on the horizon, first-rounder Aaron Sanchez hopes the team's pitching staff can guide the club to a championship.
The 20-year-old allowed one hit over four innings Monday as the Lugnuts blanked the Lake County Captains, 10-0.
"I think, without a doubt, this year has been a lot better than in the past. My command has been better and my velocity has jumped. Now it's time to finish strong," said Sanchez, selected by the Toronto Blue Jays 34th overall in the 2010 Draft.
"All in all, we needed this game as a team. Coming off the DL and getting my feet wet, I got in a groove. Hopefully, this will be a good stepping stone."
Sanchez, who lowered his ERA to 2.27 in the victory, has shown moments of brilliance and prolonged periods of inconsistency in his third season as a pro.
Between June 11 and July 6, the right-hander allowed three runs -- two earned -- over 21 2/3 innings. He yielded just 10 hits over those five starts, striking out 23 batters and running his record to 8-0.
But since then, the California native has struggled. In his next four games, he surrendered 18 runs over 13 2/3 frames. He gave up five runs in three of the outings, including in consecutive starts to Bowling Green and South Bend before going on the disabled list on July 31.
Toronto's No. 7 prospect said the move was made as a precautionary measure and he's back to 100 percent. He allowed a run on three hits over three innings in his first game back Aug. 15, and Monday's outing was further proof that there haven't been lingering effects from the layoff.
Staked to a 4-0 lead in the top of the first inning Monday, Sanchez tossed a 1-2-3 in the bottom half of the frame before working around a pair of walks and a balk in the second. The right-hander then hit Jose Ramirez with a pitch and issued a two-out free pass to Jordan Smith in the third, but he stranded the runner in scoring position.
Lake County's Bryson Myles broke up the no-no with a one-out single to right field in the fourth -- a fastball down and away -- but Sanchez retired the final two batters he faced before exiting with a 7-0 lead.
Kramer Champlin carried the one-hitter into the eighth before allowing a leadoff single to Yhoxian Medina to left field.
Ian Kadish worked a perfect ninth to seal the shutout, the league-leading 15th of the year. That also matches the Lugnuts' franchise single-season record.
The win also helped the club improve to 76-47, the best mark on the circuit, while lowering the team ERA to 3.34. Lansing is two wins away from tying the franchise record of 78 wins in a season.
"My fastball command was good, that's what we harp on here," Sanchez said. "I did a good job on both sides of the plate, I got good run on my sinker and my changeup had good life.
"This game can humble you in a heartbeat. If you make mistakes, they will capitalize on them. That's one thing that gets me fired up, I don't take losing very well. But we had a plan and we stuck to it. My job was to get 12 outs."