Winless in his first four starts this season, with an 8.50 ERA, nine walks, 14 Ks, and a brutal .349/.419/.651 line against in 18 innings, Aníbal Sánchez talked after he gave up seven hits and three runs in five innings in start No. 4, about finally feeling right on the hill.
Sánchez said he felt like he found something as the outing against the Braves went along.
“The way that I start the game is not the way that I end the game,” Sánchez explained. “I felt really strong at the end of the game.
“I think I find 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.”
“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,” he added.
Start No. 5 for the 36-year-old, 15-year veteran began with a scoreless first, and he took the mound in the second with a 1-0 lead and promptly gave up an opposite field blast on a first-pitch fastball to Corey Dickerson that went out to left to start the top of the inning.
The home runs was the sixth off the veteran starter in 20 IP this season to that point, but he settled in after the blast, and retired 12 of the next 13 Marlins’ hitters as the Nats jumped out to a 4-1 lead after four.
It was 9-1 when Sánchez returned to the mound in the sixth and gave up leadoff and one-out singles, but got a 5-4-3 DP to end the a 17-pitch frame which left him at 80 pitches on the day.
Sánchez retired the side in order in a 12-pitch seventh which left him at 92 pitches, and he was done for the day at that point, in what was by far his best start of the season so far.
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.
“I think his previous outing before this in Atlanta, his last inning and half and I think we talked about it, I saw a different Aníbal,” manager Davey Martinez said after a 9-3 win.
“I saw him the way that I saw him last year when he was going well. I saw him turn that corner then.”
“He went out there today and pumped strikes,” Martinez added. “He kept the ball below the zone unless he wanted to go up, and he pumped strikes, but it was a good day, a good pick-up for us today, Aníbal setting the tone for us early, and continued to throw seven innings.”
“That’s the Aníbal I’ve known for a very long time. When he can split the plate like he did and work both sides and keep the ball down, he’s going to be very effective, and he did that today, and you could see the results. He was really good. I had a conversation with [catcher Kurt Suzuki] afterwards, and he said that that’s the best he’s thrown this year, just because everything — he’s working from down to up, and that’s who he is.”
Sánchez said it’s all about fastball command in the zone.
“I think when I’m able to locate my fastball for a strike, it is something that I control every time,” he explained. “For example, I got [Magneuris] Sierra 3-0 and was able to throw my fastball for a strike and start working from that. So when that happens, I feel really good, I can use my secondary pitches, it’s effective when I got my fastball down on both sides of the plate.”
Sánchez once again pointed to the last few innings against the Braves as his turning point.
“I think it all clicked, what happened today was in my last outing I think the last two innings in Atlanta was the way that I pitched today.
“I know what it feels like, I know how to keep it strong, and at end of the game I remembered that day. And I used it today.
“I don’t want to allow any kind of walk, and I want to finish strong in my outing, and I just give the opportunity to the team to win, that’s what I focus on right now.
“My mechanics are there, it’s something I’ve been working for the whole season and finally I had it with me and I got a really good result.”