The Nationals had a 14-0 lead in Atlanta in the 6th inning when Anibal Sanchez‘s perfect game was spoiled. All Nats’ position players had at least one-hit by the 4th inning as the Nats offense knocked out the Braves’ starter Kevin Gausman with no outs in the 2nd inning. The Nationals swept their first series of the season with this win in this 2-game series against the rival Braves.
What a great pitching performance for Anibal Sanchez who just returned from the 10-day IL to pitch in this game, and while he was on a pitch count limit of approximately 70 pitches, he was able to finish the 6th inning with an 80-pitch count. If he was fully stretched out, he certainly would have remained in the game longer.
The call to the bullpen was for Kyle McGowin who finished the final three innings, but in his first frame in the 7th inning he could not retire the first 4 batters he faced who all scored on an Austin Riley grand slam. After that, McGowin got locked-in and in a groove. He closed the game out quickly with a final score of 14-4. Because McGowin finished the game while pitching 3-innings without relinquishing the lead, he got credited with a save, and McGowin had a clean 8th inning which has been rare for this bullpen. Everything was set-up by Anibal Sanchez and Braves manager Brian Snitker pulled Freddie Freeman and Nick Markakis early from the game.
“[Aníbal Sanchez] kept everything down, mixed all of his pitches up. He was very effective,” manager Dave Martinez said. “That’s what I saw last year from Anibal. Everything down in the zone, and he pitched really, really well.”
The Nationals will fly out to Cincinnati tomorrow morning on their day-off, and the team heads there on a roll while winning 5 of their last 6 games. The great news is that Anibal Sanchez finally looks like the player the Nationals signed to a 2-year deal with a guaranteed $19 million contract. This win was Sanchez’s first as a Nationals player. His one-hitter tonight with 6.0 innings of shutout baseball lowered his ERA to 4.47. Sanchez started the game with a 5.10 ERA , and he got that into a more respectable level while the Nats punished the former Orioles starter who entered the game with a 4.33 ERA and exited at 5.56.
For Juan Soto, he extended his hitting streak to 13-games with a nice 2-for-4 night that included an oppo boppo home run. Soto along with Trea Turner got their batting averages up to close to .300, and with a few more multi-hit games the pair will be there. Turner had three more hits tonight including a triple and another stolen base and Atlanta continues to be where Turner rakes.
“I just talked to all the boys and told them you guys got to feel it right now,” manager Dave Martinez said. “It feels pretty good. Have a great day off, and let’s get back at it Friday.”
With this win, the Nationals improved to 24-32 and are now 8.0 games under .500 with a chance to continue their hot streak to finish the month of May and into June. With this blowout win, every member of the bullpen got tonight off except for McGowin, and they can couple that with tomorrow’s day-off to really rest up.
By the way, the draft is next week and my annual first pick is for a control pitcher that the Mets tried to pluck out of high school in Rye, New York, named George Kirby. He went to Elon University in North Carolina and is an under the radar type that could slip to the second round. My sources say that Mike Rizzo is eyeing Alek Manoah from nearby WVU if he falls to the Nats spot at picking at No. 17. For position players, there is the Trea Turner clone for the outfield with a speedy high schooler named Corbin Carroll. Rizzo is most likely going pitcher.
In other news, Craig Kimbrel is still being linked to the Nats in MLB Trade Rumors for a possible landing spot.