Aníbal Sánchez said going into Game 1 of the NLCS that he was hoping that he could, “...put up a quality start for the team,” in the Washington Nationals’ National League Championship debut, and he exceeded that modest expectation, holding St. Louis Cardinals’ hitters hitless through 7 2⁄3 IP in what ended up a 2-0 win for the visiting team in Game 1 in St. Louis, MO’s Busch Stadium.
Sánchez vs St. Louis: Aníbal Sánchez’s turnaround this season was about as dramatic as the Nationals’ recovery from their rough start.
Sánchez, in the first year of a 2-year/$19M free agent deal he signed with Washington this winter, was (0-6) with a 5.27 ERA, 24 walks, 39 Ks, and a .265/.354/.471 line against over 41 innings in his first eight starts, but after leaving an outing against the New York Mets in mid-May in the second inning, he landed on the 10-Day Injured List with a hamstring issue, and he came back from the break a different pitcher.
Sánchez went unbeaten in his next 16 outings, posting a 3.21 ERA, 27 walks, 75 strikeouts, and a .225/.285/.358 line against in 92 2⁄3 IP in that stretch, then finished up his 14th MLB campaign with wins in his final three starts before making a strong appearance in Game 3 of the NLDS with the Los Angeles Dodgers (5.0 IP, 1 ER, 9 Ks).
Tonight in St. Louis, Sánchez retired the first ten batters he faced, on 35 pitches, before he gave up a one-out walk to Kolten Wong in the bottom of the fourth.
Wong stole second one out later, and took third on a throwing error by Nationals’ catcher Yan Gomes on the play, but he was stranded there at the end of Sánchez’s fourth scoreless frame.
Sánchez needed 11 pitches in the fourth, and another 11 in the fifth inning, completing five scoreless and hitless on just 56 total, with only the one walk allowed.
A one-out HBP on pinch hitter Randy Arozarena gave the Cardinals their second baserunner of the game, and he stole second in the next at bat, and moved over to third base on Dexter Fowler’s groundout to second, setting Kolten Wong up with an opportunity to tie it up, only to get stranded there when Wong lined out to center to end a 19-pitch frame. Still 1-0 Nats.
Sánchez came back out in the seventh with a 2-0 lead, after a long top of the inning, and retired the first two batters he faced, before losing an 0-2 changeup (at 66 MPH) that got Yadier Molina on the left shoulder, but a groundout by Matt Carpenter ended the Nationals’ starter’s seventh scoreless frame. Still 2-0 Nats.
Ryan Zimmerman dove to his right to rob Tommy Edman of what would have been the first hit of the game for the Cardinals. Paul DeJong sent a fly to center. José Martínez got to 3-2, and singled to center to break up Sánchez’s no-hit bid.
Aníbal Sánchez’s Line: 7.2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 5 Ks, 103 P, 67 S, 5/9 GO/FO.
Mikolas vs Washington: Miles Mikolas held the Nationals to one run on seven hits in six innings in a May 1st start in the nation’s capital, then gave up three runs on eight hits in September, when he faced Washington at home in St. Louis.
Asked how he would approach the Nationals this time out, and deal with the alternating left and right-handed hitters at the top of the Nats’ lineup, the 31-year-old right-hander said he’d try to keep things simple.
“Pitching 101,” Mikolas explained, “... change of speeds, locate, keep them off balance, keep them guessing. Just basic pitching 101, I guess. I’m going to throw the whole book at them.”
Mikolas struck out three batters around a two-out single by Anthony Rendon in the top of the first inning tonight, but Howie Kendrick led off the second with a double and two outs later scored from second base on an RBI double by Yan Gomes, who lined a 1-0 slider into the left-center gap to give the Nationals an early lead.
Mikolas held the Nats there through six, however, settling in and working around seven hits total, and two walks, striking out seven batters on 98 pitches before he was done, with the score still 1-0.
Miles Mikolas’s Line: 5.0 IP, 7 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 7 Ks, 98 P, 67 S, 8/2 GO/FO.
Turn-on: Trea Turner started the night with an 18-game on-base streak, which went back to September 17th, collecting hits in 16 of the 18 games, and hitting .329 over that stretch, in which he had nine doubles, six home runs, 11 RBIs, four walks, three steals, and a total of 17 runs scored.
Yan’s Turn: Starting in place of Aníbal Sánchez’s usual catcher, Kurt Suzuki, with Suzuki still recovering after a HBP to the wrist and face in Game 5 of the NLDS, Yan Gomes started the night 1 for 6 with a walk and four Ks in three games (one start) in the Postseason, but he had three hits after going 2 for 2 the first two times up, doubling to drive in a run in the Nats’ half of the second and singling to lead off the fifth.
BULLPEN ACTION: With the score still 1-0 after six, the Cardinals sent Giovanny Gallegos to the mound in the top of the seventh inning and gave up a one-out triple to left off of Adam Eaton’s bat, and he was lifted in favor of Andrew Miller after an intentional walk to Juan Soto put runners on the corners with one down. Soto fell behind 0-2, but worked the count full, but K’d swinging over a full-count slider for out No. 2.
John Brebbia took over against Howie Kendrick with runners on first and third with two out and gave up an RBI single to center on a 1-0 slider, 2-0.
Ryan Zimmerman got to a full count in the next at bat, and walked to load the bases up in front of Michael A. Taylor, who went from 0-2 to 3-2, but sent a fly to center for out No. 3.
Ryan Helsley came on for the Cards in the top of the eighth inning and retired the Nationals in order to keep it a 2-0 game.
Sean Doolittle took over for the Nationals with a runner on and two out in the Cardinals’ half of the eighth, after Aníbal Sánchez’s no-hit bid came to an end, and got a groundout to end the threat, still 2-0 Nationals.
Tyler Webb gave up a two-out single by Juan Soto, so the Cardinals went to the pen again for Carlos Martínez, who uncorked a wild pitch that moved Soto to second before walking Howie Kendrick intentionally to bring Ryan Zimmerman to the plate, but Zimmerman K’d to end the frame and keep it a 2-0 game.
Doolittle returned to the mound in the bottom of the ninth and retired the side in order to end it.
Final Score: 2-0 Nationals
Nationals up 1-0 on Cardinals in NLCS