In his third start of the 2019 campaign last week, Aníbal Sánchez threw seven strong innings on the mound against the Pittsburgh Pirates in the nation’s capital, giving up seven hits, two walks, and two earned runs in a 100-pitch effort.
Both the starter and his manager talked afterwards about the fact that the 35-year-old right-hander looked like he could still have gone deeper in the outing if he’d needed to.
“He came out in the seventh throwing 90 [MPH],” Davey Martinez told reporters after what ended up a 3-2 win in which Sánchez received no decision. “He said he felt good. It was a nice day, cool day, and he looked really good, so I said, ‘Hey, you’re the guy, go get outs,’ and he did.”
“I felt strong,” Sánchez said, as quoted by MASN’s Mark Zuckerman. “If I had to continue for the eighth, I had enough energy to be on the mound. So that’s really important for me.”
Sánchez gave up a run early in the series opener with the Miami Marlins on Friday night, but held the Fish to just that one on three hits through five before running into trouble in a sixth inning that ended his outing.
Miguel Rojas (double), Isaac Galloway (single), and Rosell Herrera (infield single, on a bunt) reached base in consecutive at bats, loading the bases, with Herrera bunting back to the mound and reaching safely when Sánchez instinctively tossed it to catcher Kurt Suzuki at home, while Rojas went back to third. A walk to Martin Prado in the next at bat forced in a run and ended Sánchez’s outing...
Aníbal Sánchez’s Line: 5.1 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 4 BB, 6 Ks, 90 P, 52 S, 7/2 GO/FO.
Matt Grace took over on the mound and hit the next batter, Curtis Granderson, to force in a second run, which ended up being the winning one in a 3-2 Marlins’ win.
“It was one of those innings,” the Nats’ skipper said of the sixth, when he spoke to reporters in Miami after the loss. “Sanchez was doing good. He didn’t throw the ball on a bunt to first.
“We all screamed, ‘One, one, one!’ and he held the ball, and then Gracey comes in, perfect matchup, thought [he’d get a] ground ball, hits [Granderson].”
“I saw the guy, I saw Rojas halfway,” Sánchez explained when asked about his decision-making on the bunt, “and my instinct was just to get the ball and throw to home plate, there’s no chance to hurry if I go to first, so I’m just thinking go to home plate, that’s thinking ahead in that situation, that’s why I wasn’t ready to throw it to first. I think I was ready because I saw Rojas in the middle between third base and that’s what happened.”
That decision left the bases loaded, but it was the walk to Prado (who was 15 for 36, for a .417/.432/.528 line, with a double and a home run off Sánchez in their respective careers before stepping in) that really hurt and ended the starter’s outing. Did he tire in the sixth?
“No,” Martinez said. “After talking to him, he was just trying to make perfect pitches. All game he was just letting it happen. I mean, he’s really good, and he just started trying to make perfect pitches when he didn’t have to, just let the ball work, I mean, he’s got good stuff.”
Even though the Marlins loaded the bases against him, Martinez said he decided to stick with Sánchez and try to let him work his way out of the jam.
“At that particular moment, the game is tied, you’ve got to give him an opportunity,” he said.
“He’s been pitching really, really well, and like I said, he walked Prado, and then we bring in Grace and he hits Granderson.”
“I think that situation in the last inning,” Sánchez explained, “just giving up a walk with the bases loaded is something that I don’t like it. I’d rather fight with the hitter instead of give up a walk, but it’s part of the game. Things can happen. They took really good at bats against me and I think they did everything enough to win, and that’s what happened.”
He did, however, say, that he didn’t think it was a case of trying to be too perfect.
“I tried to be aggressive,” he said.
“I just want to throw strikes, I don’t want to — like I said, I don’t want to give up a walk. I know Prado very well, he’s a great hitter, and in those situations he’s able to put the ball [in play], he can find the hole very well, so I just tried to be aggressive with my pitches, but as soon as I got behind in the count, I just wanted to pound the zone and the ball just stayed up.”