Aníbal Sánchez struggled last time out, before taking on the Chicago Cubs this afternoon in Wrigley Field, giving up eight hits, four walks, and five earned runs in four innings on the hill against the Milwaukee Brewers, but he received no decision in what ended up a 15-14 loss in the nation’s capital.
Sánchez, therefore, remained unbeaten in his last 15 starts, over which the 35-year-old, 14-year veteran has put up a 3.35 ERA, 22 walks, 65 Ks, and a .244/.299/.381 line against in 80 2⁄3 IP.
He got off to a strong start in the series opener with the Cubs, tossing three scoreless on a total of 44 pitches, while holding the home team hitless the first time through the lineup.
Sánchez gave up his first hit on a one-out single by Nick Castellanos in the fourth, but an awful popped up bunt by Kris Bryant, and a swinging K, on a filthy changeup to Anthony Rizzo, got the Nats’ right-hander through four scoreless on 57 pitches.
Aníbal Sánchez, Filthy 75mph Changeup...and Sword. ⚔️ pic.twitter.com/aoO9jNZEox— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) August 23, 2019
It was 7-0 Nationals when Sánchez returned to the mound in the fifth and retired the Cubs in order in a ten-pitch frame that left him at 67 pitches, and he retired the side in order in the sixth as well, in a nine-pitch inning.
Sánchez’s 15-pitch, 1-2-3 seventh left him at 91 pitches, and he came back out for the home-half of the eighth with another 1-2-3 frame that gave him 14-straight outs after the one hit he allowed, and he was up to just 98 pitches after the seven-pitch frame, so his manager sent him back out to go for what would have been the first complete game shutout since 2015.
Aníbal Sánchez, 70mph Butterfly Changeup. pic.twitter.com/hmShvxWyQg— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) August 23, 2019
Sánchez got a groundout after a leadoff walk, but the first runner in scoring position for the Cubs all game came around to score on a throwing error by Anthony Rendon on a grounder off Victor Caratini’s bat.
It was a 9-1 game in the Nationals’ favor at that point, with Sánchez up to 112 pitches, and Davey Martinez went to the bullpen for Matt Grace, who closed out the win (after two runs scored for the Cubs), 9-3 final.
Aníbal Sánchez’s Line: 8.1 IP, 1 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 6 Ks, 112 P, 76 S, 12/4 GO/FO.
In addition to his work on the mound, the Nationals’ starter went 2 for 3 with an RBI (his first since 2014) at the plate, laying down a perfect sac bunt in the third that led to a run, and a bases-loaded squeeze bunt in the fourth, before singling to center in the eighth inning, for the 26th and 27th hits of his 14-year major league career.
The squeeze bunt, was absolutely perfect, in execution, and in the lucky way it rolled...
Two outs.— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) August 23, 2019
Pitcher at the plate.
Aníbal Sánchez lays down the greatest bunt we've ever seen for an RBI single. pic.twitter.com/fAb7AUOlfl
“He did well today,” Martinez said of Sánchez’s work at the plate. “The fact that he got that many at bats was awesome.”
And the run he’s been on on the mound, with an eight-start winning streak and a 16-game unbeaten streak now?
“It gives us an opportunity to come out and win a ballgame,” the manager said of Sánchez’s consistency.
“That’s what he does. Everybody talks about [Max] Scherzer, [Stephen] Strasburg, [Patrick] Corbin — Aníbal is just as important to us as anybody, and now with Joe [Ross] and [Erick] Fedde pitching the way they’re pitching, we’ve got a chance to win, when these guys go out there on the mound we’ve got a chance to win every day, and that’s good and the boys feed off of that.”
Baseballsavant.com had Sánchez throwing seven different pitches in the outing, mixing in his four-seam fastball, splitter, curve, cutter, changeup, slider, and sinker, with 10 of his 30 four-seamers called strikes, 21 called strikes total, and 15 swinging strikes on the day, with a dizzying array of pitches that his manager said keep batters off-balance.
“It definitely breaks the rhythm, the hitter’s timing,” Martinez said, “so you know — and the thing about it is he can throw them for strikes, you know, and that’s the key.
“It’s not something that he’s just making it up as he goes along, he actually can throw pitches for strikes when he needs to.”