Aníbal Sánchez held the Tampa Bay Rays to two hits in five scoreless innings when he went up against the AL East club last week in Washington, D.C.’s Nationals Park, but the Nationals’ 36-year-old veteran faltered when he came back out for the top of the sixth.
Sánchez gave up a leadoff single, hit the second batter he faced, and gave up an RBI single, that got the Rays on the board, down 4-1, and two runners he left on came around to score after he’d left the mound.
“I felt really good early in the game, I finally have figured out my mechanics and how to make the hitter miss my fastball,” Sánchez said, and later in the game, “... my changeup even started breaking good out of the strike zone, it breaks down more than normal.”
Facing the Rays for the second time, in consecutive outings, last night, Sánchez threw 98 pitches in just 4 1⁄3 IP before he was lifted with bases loaded and the Nats behind, 3-0.
Nate Lowe homered off Sánchez in the second, on a first-pitch curve, and he gave up an RBI single by Kevan Smith later that inning, then Manuel Margot got a sliced, bases-loaded hit in the fifth on the right-hander’s 98th and final pitch of the game.
Aníbal Sánchez’s Line: 4.1 IP, 7 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 1 BB, 4 Ks, 1 HR, 98 P 58 S, 4/2 GO/FO.
Sánchez also allowed the Rays to run on him. Mike Brosseau singled and stole second in the first. Nate Lowe singled and stole second in the fourth.
Two batters, later Kevin Kiermaier grounded into a force that left him at first with a runner on third, and Kiermaier promptly stole second. Austin Meadows singled and stole second during the fifth, and a HBP and a walk loaded the bases before Margot’s single brought in one run.
The four successful stolen bases made it 10 for 10 for baserunners against Sánchez so far this season.
“I think he’s just so focused on getting outs at home plate that his times are just not good,” Nats’ skipper Davey Martinez said after what ended up a 6-1 loss. “With a team like this, that we know coming in, the conversation before games is hey, you’ve got to be able to hold the runners on, because they’re just going to run. He didn’t do that tonight.”
“He’s just got to focus on — if those guys can steal bases, every now and then slide step, every now and then hold the ball a little longer, just mix it up a little bit. His times, he’s never been a guy that’s going to consistently be in the ‘1.3s, 1.4s, but he does have a slide step, you know that he could throw in there and hold the ball every now and then, change. If he can do that, it helps. But when you’re constantly doing the same thing over and over again, they set up there and they time it to go home. When you’re 1.6, 1.7, those guys are just running.”
How do they address and improve that aspect of Sánchez’s game?
“It’s more of a mentality when you’re out there as a pitcher to want to stop the running game,” Martinez said.
“[Max] Scherzer, who — his times are not very good, he mixes in different holds. He’ll throw over when he has to, but he holds the ball for a long period of time at times, so it’s hard to get a jump when you’re doing things like that.
“So this is something that, you know, it’s definitely we’ve talked about, I always talk about it, more so with relievers when they’re coming in. I said keep that guy on first base and not allowing him to steal is huge. You get a ground ball and you get two outs with one pitch.
“We really talk about it a lot. It’s something that we’ve got to keep harping on with Sánchez, especially with teams that I know are going to run.”
Overall, Martinez said, “He just — threw a lot of pitches, you know. Balls that got hit hard, they were right over the middle of the plate.
“But the pitch — once again the pitch count kind of got us. He was up at almost 100 pitches at 4 1⁄3 innings, that’s a lot. And then the whole baserunning thing.”
Going into his last couple of starts of the 60-game, 2020 campaign, Sánchez said he hopes that he can improve some and finish strong.
“I would love to pitch better and get better results for myself and for the team, and finish the way that I want,” he said.
“This year, I feel healthy all the way through the short season. And I think right now if we had a regular, full season, my body feels good, last year I felt — my leg didn’t let me pitch good at the beginning, but after that, I figured out my problem with my leg I pitched better at the end of the season, but right now I feel that I can go through the whole full season, but this year is just 60 games.”