After the Washington Nationals dropped the first two games of their three-game set with the Atlanta Braves last weekend, Aníbal Sánchez showed up on Sunday ready to start the finale and lead his club to a series-salvaging win.
Nats’ skipper Davey Martinez talked before the game about the 35-year-old, 14-year veteran bringing stability to the Nats’ rotation and having a commanding presence on the mound.
“He’s a veteran guy. He’s been there. He’s pitched in the World Series. He understands big moments, so, and he’s very poised and very relaxed.
“He came in today, came to my office, gave me a fist bump and said, ‘Let’s go, let’s get a win today.’”
Sánchez tossed seven scoreless in that afternoon’s game, working around three hits and a walk in a 109-pitch effort in a 7-0 win.
“Sánchez,” bench coach Chip Hale said, after taking over on the bench when Martinez fell ill during the game, “... you look around the times he pitches against the really good teams, he does a great job. And this is one we needed.”
After dropping 2 of 3 to the St. Louis Cardinals this week, the Nationals needed another big start from Sánchez in last night’s series opener with the Marlins in Miami, and going against his one-time team for the fourth time this season, the right-hander tossed two scoreless but took the mound in the third with a 1-0 lead only to give one back with Austin Dean doubling, taking third on a balk, and scoring on an RBI single by Jon Berti, 1-1.
It was 4-1 in the Nationals’ favor in the fourth when Starlin Castro hit a 1-1 changeup out to left field, 416 ft from home, for a solo shot that made it a two-run game, 4-2, and it was 5-2 in the sixth when Sánchez came back out and gave up a leadoff walk to Neil Walker and a double to right by Castro, putting two on with no one out before manager Davey Martinez went to the bullpen...
Walker scored on an RBI single off Wander Suero by Isan Díaz, and an errant pick attempt brought Castro around, 5-4.
Aníbal Sánchez’s Line: 5.0 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 84 P, 50 S, 7/5 GO/FO.
Trea Turner homered in the top of the seventh, however, 6-4, and the Nationals held on for their 14th win in 17 games against the Marlins this season, with Sánchez earning the win to improve to (10-8) overall on the season (after starting 0-6), with a 3.91 ERA, a 4.51 FIP, 58 walks, (3.28 BB/9), and 127 Ks (7.19 K/9) in 29 starts and 159 IP.
“Sanchy gave us what he could and it was just a good night for the team,” Martinez said after the game.
“He grinded through. He had one good clean inning, we scored runs, he came back out and kept the ball down, you know, he’s really effective when he’s down, and when he starts getting the ball up that’s when he starts getting hit around a little bit, and he kind of loses control, but he battled through and gave us five-plus innings, and you know what, the other guys came in and did their job.”
Tanner Rainey followed Suero, finishing up the sixth, then Fernando Rodney (1.0 scoreless), and Daniel Hudson (2.0 scoreless) handled the late innings, picking Sánchez up after what was a relatively short, tough outing.
“It was tough,” Sánchez said, as quoted by MASN’s Mark Zuckerman.
“Today, my command wasn’t the same as the last two outings. I don’t know how to explain everything for today, but in the end I tried to fight with the team and get a win for the team.”
With the win, the Nationals finished the night +1.0 game up in the lead in the Wild Card race, ahead of the Milwaukee Brewers, with a 3.0 game advantage on the Chicago Cubs, who are 2.0 back of their NL Central rivals. Sánchez, pointing out the obvious last night, said there’s no room for error at this stage in the season.
“There’s no time for mistakes. There’s no time for taking any game for granted. We need to play harder than normal. People always say in baseball: It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish. We need to finish really, really strong.”