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Washington Nationals’ Aníbal Sánchez still a work in progress three starts into latest run with Nats...

Aníbal Sánchez has shown flashes, but overall, his first three starts back haven’t been what the Nationals need.

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

Aníbal Sánchez made a successful if unspectacular return to the majors earlier this month, after sitting out of the 2021 season, going five innings on 90 pitches while giving up a total of four hits, two walks, and four earned runs in a 5-4 loss to Atlanta.

“He had a good first outing for us,” Nats’ skipper Davey Martinez said before start No. 2 for the 38-year-old, 16-year veteran.

“I know he gave up a couple runs, but I thought he pitched well, so hopefully with a little bit of rest he comes back and attacks the strike zone.”

Sánchez gave up six hits, two walks, and three earned runs in start No. 2, when he went up against the D-backs in Arizona’s Chase Field, in another five-inning outing, in which he got up to 93 total pitches.

Looking forward to start No. 3, Sánchez said he wanted to start to go deeper in his outings as he continues to build.

“I want to get more control on my pitches,” he said, as quoted by MASN’s Mark Zuckerman.

“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.”

Turn No. 3 in the rotation came against the St. Louis Cardinals at home in Nationals Park last night, where the 38-year-old, 16-year veteran gave up six hits, two of them home runs, two walks, and six earned runs total in 5 23 IP, over which he threw 108 pitches.

Sánchez put up two scoreless to start, but gave up two singles, two stolen bases, and two RBI groundouts, threw a wild pitch, and surrendered three runs in a 32-pitch third, then he struggled late, in a 30-pitch sixth, giving up a walk, two-out, two-run home run, and a solo dinger before he was lifted, having thrown 108 pitches overall, in what ended up 6-2 loss to the Cards.

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.

“I thought Sánchez till that last inning kept us in the ballgame,” Martinez said after the game ended.

“He fell behind quite a bit today on hitters, so he’s got to — when he’s really good he works ahead. He’s got so many different pitches, so when he’s ahead, they got to worry about a lot of different things, but when he’s behind they know he’s got to come throw strikes, so he’s got to work ahead. His stuff is still good, it really is. His changeup is still good, it really is. His changeup is good, his curveball is effective, he’s got a sinker, he’s got a cutter, and we all know he’s got that whatever he calls it, ‘mariposa’, whatever, and it’s still effective, but he’s got to start working ahead.” had Sánchez throwing six different pitches, generating nine swinging strikes (seven with his changeup, and two with his slider), though he did pick up a total of 17 called strikes spread out over all his pitches, with the most coming on his changeup (five).

“The thing is, I feel good,” Sánchez said, as quoted by MASN’s Mark Zuckerman. “I think I’ve made a couple mistakes in every outing. It happened against (Michael Harris II) with Atlanta.

“Same with (Carson Kelly) in Arizona. And now here. The problem is, every time I make a mistake, I pay really hard for those moments.”

Martinez pointed to another area Sánchez has to improve upon. His time the plate. Cards’ runners stole three bases on the starter and catcher Keibert Ruiz, who did not have a shot slow as the pitcher was to the plate.

“He needs to be quicker, he really does,” Martinez said.

“I mean, he knew that they were going to run on him. He just has to be quicker. I know he throws over quite a bit.

“But I mean, if you’re 1.7-1.8 [to the plate], they’re going to run, so we explained that they like to run, they will run, and he just didn’t hold any runners on.”