DETROIT (AP) -- The Detroit Tigers have little choice but to keep sending Anibal Sanchez back out to the mound.
So even though the Tigers lost their series finale against the New York Mets, they had to be pretty encouraged by what they saw from the right-hander.
Sanchez pitched eight impressive innings, striking out 10 in Detroit's 3-1 loss Sunday. Francisco Rodriguez came on in the ninth and allowed a tiebreaking two-run homer to Neil Walker.
"I think that was my best effort," Sanchez said. "Just like the last start, I was trying to throw my first pitch for a strike, and then hit the corners with my fastball. When I'm putting every fastball in the right spot, I can do everything else I need with my other pitches."
The Tigers wasted a chance to take the lead in the eighth when a baserunning blunder gave the Mets a reprieve. It was Detroit's second loss in 12 games.
Sanchez allowed a run and four hits with no walks.
"No question that was his best outing of the season," manager Brad Ausmus said. "He had a great fastball and he kept his pitch count down. When he's commanding his fastball up in the zone, it lets him use his other pitches."
Sanchez was removed from the rotation for a little while earlier in the season, but now the Tigers are dealing with injuries to Jordan Zimmermann and Mike Pelfrey, so Sanchez has had plenty of chances to turn things around.
Sunday's performance lowered his ERA to 5.88 on the year. Over his last four starts, he's 1-1 with a 3.12 ERA.
The Mets allowed Detroit to tie the game at 1 in the seventh with the help of a couple fluky infield hits. Then the Tigers put men on first and second with two outs in the eighth. Casey McGehee slapped a grounder that deflected off first baseman James Loney and into shallow right field.
"My first thought is: `Not again. You've got to be kidding me,"' Mets manager Terry Collins said.
But J.D. Martinez stopped at third instead of coming around to score. Justin Upton, who had started the play on first, kept going toward third, leaving two Detroit runners in the vicinity of the same base. Right fielder Curtis Granderson patiently ran the ball all the way in, and Martinez was eventually tagged out in a rundown.
"J.D. has his back to the play, so he sees it get knocked down and he's thinking he has to stop. By that time, if he tries to start up again and go, he's out by 20 feet," Ausmus said. "There's no blame here. Justin looked back and saw the ball got through, so he's thinking that J.D. saw the same thing. J.D. didn't."
New York retook the lead when Walker went deep off Rodriguez (1-2).
Detroit trails AL Central-leading Cleveland by two games.
Addison Reed (3-2) got the win in relief, and Jeurys Familia pitched the ninth for his major league-leading 39th save in 41 chances.
Michael Conforto homered for the Mets in the seventh.
New York's 1-0 lead didn't last long after Conforto's drive. With runners on first and second and two outs in the bottom of the seventh, Andrew Romine hit a dribbler toward third and the Mets had no play. That was it for starter Jacob deGrom, who was replaced by Jerry Blevins.
Pinch-hitter Ian Kinsler then hit a soft chopper that made it past the mound for another infield single, tying the game.
Rodriguez hit Alejandro De Aza with a pitch to start the ninth, and Walker followed with a drive to right-center.
DeGrom gave up a run and seven hits in 6 2/3 innings.
The Mets hit into three double plays in the final four innings in a loss Saturday night. On Sunday, it was Detroit's turn to waste scoring chances. The Tigers grounded into double plays in the first, second and fourth.
Mets: SS Jose Reyes (left oblique strain) is scheduled to play in a simulated game Monday in Florida. ... De Aza had a wrap around his right wrist after the game but said he was OK and expects to be ready for his team's next game.
Mets: New York has Monday off before hosting Arizona for three games. Steven Matz (8-8) starts for the Mets on Tuesday night against Zack Greinke (10-3).
Tigers: Detroit heads out west for a three-game series with the Mariners. Rookie Michael Fulmer (9-2) takes the mound for the Tigers against Hisashi Iwakuma (12-7) on Monday night.