Aníbal Sánchez revived his career with a solid season in Atlanta in 2018, and the veteran righty parlayed that success into a 2-year/$19M deal with the Washington Nationals and then helped his new team win a World Series in the first year of that contract.
Through his first three starts of the second year of the deal, however, Sánchez was having a tough time of things, so he was looking to bounce back as he went up against the Braves.
“It’s frustrating when you’re working hard and the results are not there,” the 36-year-old, 15-year veteran told reporters after his third loss in three starts on August 12th.
“But it’s not the end of the world,” he added. “It’s not the end of the season either, I need to prepare better for my next outing.”
The Nationals lightened Sánchez’s between-starts workload this time around, in the hope that it would help him improve on his early-season results.
“We changed his routine a little bit,” manager Davey Martinez said before last night’s game.
“He’s a guy that likes to throw a lot and we kind of changed that. He had one bullpen this week, so we’ll see how it fares.
“My biggest thing with him is, like we talk about all the time, is he’s got to attack the zone, but everything has got to be down.
“HIs ball moves everywhere, so he’s got to work both sides of the plate, but keep the ball down.”
Sánchez was down in the zone early as he retired the Braves in order in the first, but a walk to Marcell Ozuna in the second was followed by an RBI double by Nick Markakis and an RBI single by Austin Riley two outs later got the Braves within one, 3-2, after the Nationals took an early lead in Atlanta’s Truist Park.
It was 4-2 in the third when Sánchez surrendered back-to-back-to-back singles by Dansby Swanson, Freddie Freeman, and Travis d’Arnaud, with d’Arnaud’s single bringing Swanson around from second to make it a 4-3 game.
Sánchez worked his way out of a bases-loaded jam, but ended up throwing 34 pitches in the third, which left him at 68 total after three with a one-run lead.
A scoreless 13-pitch fourth in which he walked Freddie Freeman intentionally with a man on third and two out and stranded both runners left Sánchez at 81 pitches total, and he worked around a leadoff single to finish five innings on 99 pitches before he was done for the night in what ended up a 7-6 walk-off loss when the Braves rallied in the ninth.
Aníbal Sánchez’s Line: 5.0 IP, 7 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 3 BB, 1 K, 99 P, 65 S, 7/4 GO/FO.
“[Sánchez] fought with everything he had to give us five innings, which was awesome,” the Nats’ skipper said after the game.
“He really beared down,” Martinez added. “I thought he threw the ball well the last inning and a half, so hopefully we straightened him out a little bit.”
“The way that I start the game is not the way that I end the game. I felt really strong at the end of the game,” Sánchez said in his own post game Zoom call.
“I think I found a little bit of myself at the end of the game than earlier in the game. In the end, I think that’s arguably the best one so far.”
What was different for the veteran starter?
“I think it’s more mechanical,” he explained. “Working — I started using more of my legs at the end of the game — everything that the past three outings before and earlier in the game, it’s something that I don’t feel with really good command, and basically life on the balls on every pitch, but the second half of the two innings and 2⁄3 I started feeling stronger and I’m using more of my mechanics to get in the strike zone better.”
At the end of the night, Sánchez said, he felt like he’d turned a corner.
“For me I know for sure everything is going to change,” he said.
“I mean, I’m not going to say the results can be different, hopefully yes. But the way that I feel at the end of the game, that’s the way I want to feel every time when I’m on the mound. I’m ready to compete and get stronger, instead of just what I’ve been doing or allowed every situation that I’ve been in the past three outings.”