Davey Martinez turned to Patrick Corbin for an inning of relief work in Game 1 of the World Series, so when it came time to name a starter for Game 3, the Nationals’ skipper decided to go with Aníbal Sánchez, in spite of the fact that the right-hander hadn’t started since a solidouting in Game 1 of the NLCS on October 11th.
After giving up a run on four hits in five innings against the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 3 of the NLDS, Sánchez took a no-hit bid into the eighth against St. Louis in the NLCS, and he held the Cardinals off the board in that outing, in what ended up a 2-0 win, but by the time he takes the mound in Game 3 of the World Series tonight, he’ll have been off the mound in game action for 14 days.
Martinez said that didn’t concern him though.
“With him, no,” the manager told reporters.
“He throws a lot ... He threw a sim game and got up to 80 pitches between his bullpen work and the sim game. He’s ready to go.
“He’s had this happen before to him and it didn’t seem to affect him. So he gets it, he’s a professional, he kept himself ready. He’s been engaged this whole time.”
Sánchez too dismissed any concerns about the layoff, when he talked in advance of Game 3 on Thursday afternoon.
“Back to the outing when I threw against Dodgers,” the 35-year-old, 14-year veteran said, “... [that] was the same amount of days that I didn’t pitch before that day. I threw against Phillies two weeks before that game so now we understand the same amount of days.
“I just think most of the time,” he added, “like right now probably you need to rest because I’ve been throwing the baseball since February, probably January.
“So right now it’s not something that’s going to affect you. So for me, I’m fine with the rest.”
“It wasn’t a hard decision for me to say that he’s going to be our Game 3 starter,” Martinez explained. “As we all know, he pitched [in NLCS] Game 1 for us and came up huge. He’s up to it.
“Like I said before, he’s got great command of all his pitches, which is a lot. Hopefully he goes out and keeps us in the ball game and we have a chance to win again.”
Sánchez, his manager noted, has been rolling since coming off a stint on the Injured List in May.
He was (0-6) in his first nine starts after signing a 2-year/$19M deal with the Nationals this winter, with a 5.10 ERA, 25 walks, 41 Ks, and a .263/.353/.463 line against in 42 1⁄3 IP, but after a short time off for a hamstring injury, Sánchez bounced back, and went (11-2) in his final 21 outings in the regular season, with a 3.42 ERA, 33 walks, 93 strikeouts, and a .227/.282/.386 line against in 123 2⁄3 IP from late May on.
“We talked a lot about his mechanics,” Martinez said when asked what changed for the right-hander after the IL stint.
“Staying in his legs a little bit, being more exact, more conviction with his pitches, and staying down in the zone. But more using his legs a little bit better. And he’s been really good.
“And I think it’s actually helped him. Because he’s had some hamstring issues, as we all know, and it’s kind of helped his hamstring a little bit.”
Sánchez said he didn’t really change much once he returned, though the results after the time off were obviously better.
“Everything was there,” he said. “Everything was the same, until I came to the IL. Couple of errors, couple base hits, couple situations, couple runners on base. Those little things change a lot. Like I remember that I lost four games, 2-0, 2-1, some of those games. But I got like an injury with my leg. I remember I didn’t pitch for like 10, 12 day before my first game of the season. I got hit on the leg. A lot of things going on on the team early in the season for me to compete harder for the second half. But I didn’t do something like special, like I try to figure out what I had done before the IL and after. Everything was the same.”
Martinez, Sánchez, and the Nationals are hoping for more of the same from the starter in Game 3, after they took two in a row from the Astros in Houston.
Sánchez said he was just happy to get another opportunity to pitch in the World Series, seven years after he started for the Detroit Tigers in the 2012 Fall Classic.
To get a shot like this, after he struggled for a few years, and looked at times like his career might be coming to an end, is a “blessing,” he said.
“I feel really, really [blessed]. Thank God that I got this opportunity. Without him I don’t think that I was here. Yeah, it was tough moment of my career but most of the people think for me 2016 and ‘17 was tough for me. Before that like ten years I go after ‘16 and ‘17 for me I wasn’t on the top situation of my life. And it’s no [comparison]. Lose a game. Win a game. It’s part of [pitching]. It’s part of the game. Some you have to lose, some you have to win.”
The Astros, down 2-0, are in something of a must-win situation, and they’re facing a starter, in Sánchez, who said he wasn’t necessarily nervous about the prospect of working on this stage.
“I don’t feel pressure right now,” he said. “I don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow.”