In six starts since coming off the Injured List on May 29th, Aníbal Sánchez, (who was (0-6) with a 5.10 ERA and a .263/.353/.463 line against in his first nine starts and 42 1⁄3 innings pitched this season), was (4-0) with a 2.29 ERA and a .206/.245/.344 line against in 35 1⁄3 IP heading into Thursday’s 4th of July matchup against the Miami Marlins in Washington, D.C.’s Nationals Park.
Sánchez was coming off a six-inning outing against Detroit in Comerica Park in which he gave up a hit, a walk, and a run in a 3-1 win, striking out six of 26 Tigers’ batters faced.
Asked what’s been different for him pre and post-injury, the 35-year-old, 14-year veteran said he’s doing the same things but getting better results.
“I’ve just been working the same before the injury and after. I think everything is coming out good right now, I’m just trying to not give up any kind of situation. Attack the hitter for me is the key since I’ve come off the IL and it’s been working,” Sánchez explained.
Sánchez gave up two runs early in the series finale with the Fish, with Miguel Rojas hitting a solo shot to left on a 2-2 splitter up in the zone in the first at bat of the game and a line drive to center in the second inning that drove in another run to make it 2-0.
Sánchez held the Marlins there through five, however, as the Nationals chipped away, tied it up, and eventually overtook the Fish with an RBI single by Anthony Rendon in the home-half of the fifth inning, 3-2.
A 21-pitch sixth, in which he worked around a one-out walk, ended Sánchez’s afternoon at 102 pitches overall, and the Nationals went on to sweep the Marlins with a 5-2 win.
Aníbal Sánchez’s Line: 6.0 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 2 Ks, 1 HR, 102 P, 70 S, 9/3 GO/FO.
“He was up early, and then as the game started going he started keeping the ball down, and he’s really effective when the ball is down,” Martinez said after the win.
“Today is one of those days that I don’t feel early in the game that I’ve got really good command of my stuff,” Sánchez told reporters, as quoted by MASN’s Mark Zuckerman.
“I don’t know if probably because it’s too early, or I don’t know. But I keep trying to keep fighting and just hold the game until the team responds.”
Tanner Rainey followed Sánchez on the mound with a scoreless seventh, Wander Suero, Jonny Venters, and Javy Guerra combined for a scoreless eighth, and Fernando Rodney earned the save with a scoreless ninth, just like the Nationals drew it up in Spring Training...
Rainey worked around a single in the seventh inning. Suero gave up back-to-back hits by the first two batters he faced in the eighth, Venters retired left-hand hitters JT Riddle and Curtis Granderson, then walked Neil Walker to load the bases, before Guerra got the final out of the inning on a line drive to short by Miguel Rojas, (who finished the series with the Nationals 6 for 12).
Rodney gave up back-to-back, two-out singles in the ninth then got a force at second to end the game.
“We wanted Suero out there in the eighth, first two guys got on, and for me, after watching Venters pitch previously in Detroit, I thought he could get the two lefties out,” Martinez said.
“And he did well. When he can pump strikes and keep the ball down he’s very effective.
“I thought one of those two guys either they would strike out or a good chance to get a ground ball. That’s what I was looking at.
“And then Guerra gets a huge out, because ‘Babe Rojas’ was incredible this whole weekend.”
Sánchez extended his unbeaten streak to eight straight starts, and finished the game with a (5-6) record and a 3.66 ERA in 16 starts and 83 2⁄3 IP.