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Washington Nationals drop 6-2 decision to St. Louis Cardinals in series opener in D.C.

Aníbal Sánchez struggled on the mound and the Nationals struggled at the plate in a 6-2 loss to the Cardinals...

MLB: St. Louis Cardinals at Washington Nationals Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Sánchez vs the Cards:

With seven hits, four walks, and seven earned runs allowed in 10 total innings pitched in his first two starts back in the majors since 2020, the results have’t been there, necessarily, but Aníbal Sánchez told reporters after his second start of the 2022 season for Washington that it’s the length of his outings he wants to improve on going forward.

“Be able to go deeper in the game, that’s what I want,” Sánchez told reporters, as quoted by MASN’s Mark Zuckerman after start No. 2.

“I want to get more control on my pitches. I think everything is really close. I think I’m close to getting to where I want to be. I think for my next outing, I want to do that.”

Sánchez’s manager (in 2019-20, and again this season), Davey Martinez, told reporters in his pregame press conference before the starter’s second outing, he was impressed with all the work the 38-year-old, 16-year veteran puts in to keep going late in his career.

“To play this game for as long as he [has], and as a pitcher, you’ve got to work hard at it,” the fifth-year manager said.

“You really do. ... He works diligently every single day to get himself ready, prepares himself well.”

Start No. 3 for Sánchez began with two scoreless innings, which he completed on 25 total pitches, but he took the mound with a 2-0 lead in the third, and gave up back-to-back hits, by Andrew Knizer and Tommy Edman (who stole 2nd in the next AB), before Knizer scored on a groundout to first base off of Dylan Carlson’s bat, 1-1.

Tyler O’Neill walked with two out to keep the inning going, and with Edman at third, O’Neill stole second base, before Edman scored on a wild pitch by Sánchez, 2-1, and 3-1 after Paul Goldschmidt grounded out to short and brought in a run in the next at-bat.

Sánchez held the Cardinals there through five, which he completed on 78 pitches, but he gave up a one-out walk to Nolan Arenado in the top of the sixth, and then a two-out, two-run home run to right field by Nolan Gorman, whose 374-foot shot was his 11th this season, 5-1 Cardinals, and 6-1 on a solo homer by Lars Nootbaar. That was it for Aníbal...

Aníbal Sánchez’s Line: 5 23 IP, 6 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 2 BB, 4 Ks, 2 HRs, 108 P, 66 S, 4/5 GO/FO.

Mikolas vs the Nationals:

Miles Mikolas, 33, gave up three earned runs or fewer in his first four starts this month, but his fifth turn in the Cardinals’ rotation in July was a tough outing, which saw him give up a total of seven hits, two walks, and six earned runs in five innings of work in a 6-3 loss to the Cincinnati Reds on the road. Mikolas was happy with his stuff overall in the outing, however, though it clearly didn’t go how he wanted it to go.

“I think I had a good breaking ball,” Mikolas said, as quoted by the AP. “There wasn’t a lot of hard-hit stuff. They doinked me to death.”

The outing left the seven-year veteran with a 2.87 ERA, a 3.76 FIP, 25 walks, 96 Ks, and a .216/.262/.349 line against in 20 starts and 125 13 IP on the season.

Mikolas retired the Nationals in order in a quick, efficient, seven-pitch first, but he gave up back-to-back singles by Josh Bell and Nelson Cruz in the home-half of the second, and Bell took third on a force at second base on a Yadiel Hernández grounder, and a sac fly by Luis García brought Bell in for the first run of the game, 1-0 Nats after two.

The Cards’ starter came out for the third with a 3-1 lead, however, and proceeded to retire the Nationals in order in an 18-pitch frame, which had him at 53 through four, and after a nine-pitch 1-2-3 fifth, Mikolas returned to the mound with a 6-1 advantage in the bottom of the sixth, and gave up a leadoff double by César Hernández, who took third on a balk, and scored on a sac fly by Josh Bell, 6-2.

Yadiel Hernández and Luis García hit back-to-back singles off Mikolas in the seventh, which led to some subtle stalling on the Cards’ part as they got the bullpen going in earnest, but both runners were stranded three outs later as the starter completed a 16-pitch frame at 91 total pitches on the night.

Miles Mikolas’s Line: 7.0 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 4 Ks, 91 P, 61 S, 9/7 GO/FO.

Bullpen Action:

Jordan Weems took over for Aníbal Sánchez with two out in the sixth and got the final out of the inning with one pitch.

Weems returned to the mound in the seventh, with the score 6-2 in the Cards’ favor, and set the side down in order in an 11-pitch frame.

Victor Arano struck out two and got a fly to center in an 11-pitch, 1-2-3 eighth.

Genesis Cabrera came on for the Cards in the bottom of the eighth, and worked around a two-out single by Josh Bell for a scoreless frame.

Hunter Harvey struck out the side in a 12-pitch, 1-2-3 top of the ninth.

Giovanny Gallegos made quick work of the Nationals in the bottom of the inning, stranding Keibert Ruiz after a two-out double by the catcher.

Nationals now 34-67