Aníbal Sánchez struggled his last time out to the mound before facing the San Francisco Giants on Tuesday night in Oracle Park, giving up 10 hits and four runs over five innings in what ended up a 5-4 loss to Atlanta in Nationals Park.
Sánchez received no decision however, so his 12-start unbeaten streak was extended, with the 35-year-old, 14-year veteran, who missed time on the Injured list with a hamstring injury in mid-to-late May, (6-0) with a 2.88 ERA, 16 walks, 54 Ks, and a .229/.282/.379 line against in 65 2⁄3 IP in that stretch.
In spite of all the hits for the Braves, Nationals’ manager Davey Martinez said Sánchez wasn’t really that bad in the outing.
“A lot of off the end,” Martinez said, “jam shots, they were able to find some holes today, but I thought he pitched okay. He was a little up, but he got some big outs and he kept us in the ballgame.”
Sánchez said he tried to change things up a little going against the Nats’ NL East rivals and his former team for the second time in a three starts and the fourth time this season.
“Today I tried to work a little bit outside the normal,” Sánchez said, as quoted by MASN’s Byron Kerr.
“I’ve faced those guys four times already. I think the first time it was like a back-to-back and now it’s the same, just a week apart. Those guys, they hit pretty good. They’re so smart on the plate, and I try to figure it out. I just want to keep those guys out of balance from the beginning.”
In trying to work outside his normal patterns and work outside to hitters, he ended up giving up hits down the lines and the other way from each side of the plate.
“Especially because I normally throw a lot of inside against them - cutter, front-door - and I want to stay away from that,” Sánchez said. “I’m looking for ground ball, weak contact.”
Trying to bounce back from that less-than-stellar outing, Sánchez got off to a strong start in San Francisco, holding the Giants to a run on one hit through four innings, on an efficient 51 pitches.
After working around a one-out double in a 14-pitch fifth, Sánchez gave up back-to-back hits in the first two at bats of the Giants’ sixth, with Pablo Sandoval doubling to right and scoring on an RBI single by Brandon Belt, 5-2, but he worked around a walk and stranded two runners to get out of the sixth with a three-run lead in what ended up a 5-3 win.
Aníbal Sánchez’s Line: 6.0 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 3 Ks, 87 P, 60 S, 7/7 GO/FO.
Sánchez’s manager said he’s been “unbelievable” since coming off that IL stint, after going (0-6) with a 5.10 ERA, 24 walks, 39 Ks, and a .263/.353/.463 line against in nine starts and 42 1⁄3 IP before the time off.
“I think after I came from the IL, just trying to stay ahead in the count most of the time,” Sanchez told reporters, as quoted by MLB.com’s Jamal Collier, after the Nationals’ win over the Giants.
“I think early most of the time, fighting with my location hurt me early in the season but now ... attack the strike zone, hit the corners and prepare my game.”
“We talk about it all the time,” Martinez said, “when he can pitch down in the strike zone and throw strikes like he did tonight, he’s very effective, and that’s the biggest thing. That last inning he fought through it and the balls were kind of getting up, so we kind of figured we get him through this inning that would be it for him.”
In what’s now a 13-start unbeaten streak, Sánchez is (7-0) with a 2.76 ERA, 17 walks, 57 Ks, and a .225/.277/.371 line against in 71 2⁄3 IP, and he’s (7-6) overall in the first season of his 2-year/$19M deal with the Nationals, with a 3.67 ERA, 41 walks, 96 Ks, and a .240/.308/.409 line against in 112 2⁄3 IP on the year.