Aníbal Sánchez finished the 2019 regular season, the 14th in the majors for the 36-year-old starter, with an impressive run which saw him go (11-2) in his final 21 outings, with a 3.42 ERA, 33 walks, 93 strikeouts, and a .227/.282/.386 line against in 123 2⁄3 innings pitched in those starts.
He followed up on that strong stretch with a solid postseason showing for the World Series champions, putting up a 2.50 ERA, four walks, 18 Ks, and a .221/.284/.368 line against in 18 IP during the NLDS, NLCS, and the Fall Classic.
Heading into the second year of the 2-year/$19M deal he signed with the Nationals in late 2018, Sánchez said he was ready for what would be a different kind of season than he had experienced in his previous fourteen big league campaigns.
With the ongoing coronavirus pandemic leading to empty ballparks in the 60-game season, Sánchez said he and his teammates were aware things would be weird.
“We’re prepared for the season,” Sánchez said. “We’re prepared to play a season without fans.
"Play ball!" - @TeoscarH pic.twitter.com/UO60Oo5KLv— Toronto Blue Jays (@BlueJays) July 27, 2020
“It’s really important to have those people in the stands. They give you energy, they give you some pressure sometimes, when you’re on the visiting side.
“What we’re going to face as soon as the season starts, I don’t know.
“I know the team is ready to play, and is ready to continue to fight, and show a good game, especially for the people at home right now.”
Sánchez struggled with the long ball in his first outing of the 2020 campaign, giving up four solo shots over five innings, in what ended up an 88-pitch effort in which he allowed just six hits total.
Leave ja-NO doubt pic.twitter.com/vyw8zrQXT7— Toronto Blue Jays (@BlueJays) July 27, 2020
Aníbal Sánchez’s Line: 5.0 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 1 BB, 7 Ks, 4 HRs, 88 P, 56 S, 2/4 GO/FO.
Sánchez joked when he spoke with reporters after what ended up a 4-1 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays that while he did give up the four home runs, a double, and a triple, on a fly that was misplayed in right field, he didn’t give up any singles.
“Almost a no-hitter,” Sánchez laughed.
Teoscar Hernández, who hit two of the four home runs, started the night 2 for 6 with two home runs in head-to-head matchups with Sánchez in their respective careers. What’s is thee challenge with the Jays’ 27-year-old slugger?
Don't say it...— Toronto Blue Jays (@BlueJays) July 27, 2020
Don't say it...
Don't say it...
TWOscar Hernández pic.twitter.com/HVTWvvFvP6
“Hernandez we’ve got a long [history] I think. This guy, he’s hit pretty good against me. I think I missed a couple pitches against him,” Sánchez said.
“It’s not any challenge,” he added. “I think every hitter is important to play. I think you have to make the pitches at the right time.
“This guy, he, like I said, I missed a pitch against him and he’s really good, and he put a really good swing on it, and he didn’t miss the pitch.”
“When you miss pitches against the wrong guy, that’s what happens, but at the end I think I felt really good today.”
His manager, Davey Martinez, said it was a matter of location on the pitches that went out.
“He was up. He was up in the zone,” Martinez explained. “When he’s really good he gets the ball down in the zone.
“Those home runs, other than one breaking ball he threw to [Rowdy] Tellez, all those other ones the balls were up.”
We have no idea where this Rowdy BLAST landed pic.twitter.com/0SNxHhPTsv— Toronto Blue Jays (@BlueJays) July 27, 2020
Catcher Kurt Suzuki said the Blue Jays’ young hitters were aggressive and attacking early in the count.
“They were kind of jumping him early,” Suzuki told reporters. “They’re a really aggressive young team that likes to get off early, early in counts, and Aníbal, the first inning, trying to get into a groove, it’s kind of tough to do when guys come out swinging like that.”
The Nats were swinging it well too, collecting 11 hits total in the game, but they went 2 for 10 with runners in scoring position, and let 10 men on base in the 4-1 loss, hitting into four double plays on the day.
“The solo shot, obviously, usually doesn’t kill you,” Suzuki said, summing up the loss “but we obviously have to score runs as well.”