“I think I find a little bit of myself at the end of the game than earlier in the game,” Aníbal Sánchez told reporters after his fourth start of the 2020 campaign last week in Atlanta.
“In the end, I think that’s arguably the best one so far.”
There’s no argument that start No. 5 of the season for Sánchez was by far his best early in the season, as the 36-year-old, 15-year veteran held the Miami Marlins to a run on five hits over seven strong innings this afternoon, which he completed on 92 pitches.
Sánchez received plenty of support as well, with a five-run fifth blowing things open in what ended up a 9-3 win for the Washington Nationals.
Sánchez vs Miami: Aníbal Sánchez took the mound this afternoon winless in his first four starts of the 2020 campaign, with an 8.50 ERA, a 6.90 FIP, nine walks, 14 Ks, and a rough .349/.419/.651 line against in 18 innings pitched.
He and his manager both said after the veteran right-hander’s fourth start that he seemed to find something late in the outing.
“[Sánchez] fought with everything he had to give us five innings, which was awesome,” Davey Martinez told reporters.
“He really beared down,” the skipper added. “I thought he threw the ball well the last inning and a half, so hopefully we straightened him out a little bit.”
It just might have. Sánchez looked like the pitcher who helped the Nationals to a World Series win in 2019 this afternoon.
Sánchez erased a leadoff single in the first, with a 5-6-3 DP (in the shift), and a groundout to short ending a quick, nine-pitch frame, but he took the mound in the second with a 1-0 lead and promptly gave up an opposite field homer off Corey Dickerson’s bat on the first pitch of the inning, 1-1.
*AHHEMhemHEMAHEMheM*— Miami Marlins (@Marlins) August 23, 2020
Corey Dingerson. pic.twitter.com/ocO0iM1YnV
Given a 2-1 lead to work with, Sánchez retired the side in order in a 14-pitch third, and he left a two-out single on first in the fourth inning, giving him 9 of 10 batter set down after Dickerson’s home run.
Sánchez was up to 12 of 13 set down following the home run after he retired the Marlins in order in a quick, seven-pitch fifth, and he got an inning-ending 5-4-3 DP in the sixth, after giving up leadoff and one-out singles. A 12-pitch, 1-2-3 seventh left Sánchez at 92 pitches overall, and that was it for his fifth start of the season...
Aníbal Sánchez’s Line: 7.0 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 5 Ks, 1 HR, 92 P, 62 S, 8/4 GO/FO.
Mejía vs Washington: Signed as an amateur free agent out of Panama in 2013, Humberto Mejía made his MLB debut earlier this season, with two starts on his big league resume in which he gave up six hits and four earned runs in 6 1⁄3 IP (5.68 ERA), before he took the hill in D.C. this afternoon.
Both outings before today’s were relatively brief, however, with the right-hander throwing 67 pitches in 2 1⁄3 IP the first time out, and 56 in four in the second.
“He’s got a number of pitches, he did take some pitches to get through,” Manager Don Mattingly said after Mejia’s MLB debut.
“He’s going to be a guy that looks like he’s going to need to be able to pitch to contact,” the Marlins’ skipper added, “... but he can do some things. He can elevate, he can get the ball to both sides it looks like, breaking ball — he’s got a number of pitches.”
Mejía gave up a run early in his third big league start, with Trea Turner singling to start the home-half of the first and scoring (after Lewis Brinson robbed Juan Soto of a potential two-run home run to center) on a two-out RBI double by Howie Kendrick, 1-0.
Had a home run joke but Lew Brinson took it away. pic.twitter.com/3RDtBhjxdo— Miami Marlins (@Marlins) August 23, 2020
Luis García singled and Carter Kieboom walked with one down in the Nationals’ second, and with García on third, and Victor Robles at second (after grounding into a force then stealing a bag) a two-out infield single by Turner brought García in before Robles went too far around third base and was tagged out to end the inning, 2-1.
García was 2 for 2 against the Marlins’ starter after singling to center to start the fourth, and two outs later Mejía hit Turner to put two on with two out in front of Adam Eaton, who went down for a 1-2 slider and lined it to right for a two-out double that drove in two runs, 4-1.
Humberto Mejía’s Line: 3.2 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 2 BB, 4 Ks, 82 P, 54 S, 2/2 GO/FO.
Turn On: Trea Turner started today’s game with an eight-game hit streak going, over which the 27-year-old shortstop was 13 for 32 (.406/.472/.719) with two doubles, a triple, and two home runs, and he had hits in 13 of his last 14 games (.368/.446/.667 in that stretch) going back to August 8th. Turner didn’t waste any time extending his streak to nine games in a row with a leadoff single in the bottom of the first inning this afternoon.
BULLPEN ACTION: Former Nats’ prospect Sterling Sharp, who was selected by the Marlins in this past winter’s Rule 5 Draft, took over on the mound with two outs in the fourth, with the Nationals up, 4-1, and got the final out of the inning after giving up a leadoff walk to Juan Soto.
A walk to Eric Thames and singles by Kurt Suzuki and Luis García (3 for 3) loaded the bases in front of Carter Kieboom with no one out in the Nationals’ half of the fifth, and Kieboom’s second walk of the game forced in a run before Victor Robles shot a grounder through the legs of third baseman Brian Anderson to drive in two more, E:5, 7-1, and 9-1 on a fly to right field by Trea Turner that a diving Jesus Sánchez missed and turned into a two-run triple.
Marlins’ lefty Brandon Liebrandt finished up the fifth and returned to the mound in the sixth and seventh as well, with scoreless frames in each.
Ryne Harper got the call in the top of the eighth inning, replacing Aníbal Sánchez and threw a scoreless, 16-pitch frame, working around a two-out single.
Liebrandt came back out for a fourth inning of work in the eighth, and retired the side in order. Still 9-1 Nationals.
Harper came back out for the ninth and gave up back-to-back-to-back two-out hits and two runs before he got out of the inning.
Final Score: 9-3 Nationals
Nationals now 11-14