An Anibal Sanchez gem with a Fernando Rodney save to move over .500!

Fernando Rodney (Photo by Tom Cicotello @42skidoo for TalkNats)

The Nationals closed-out the mathematical first half of the season on a winning note with a 3-1 win on the arm of Anibal Sanchez and a well-executed save by Fernando Rodney. With this win, the Nationals extended their winning streak to four games, and improved their record to 41-40. The sleep deprived Nationals offense only put together three runs which came via a Juan Soto 418-foot blast to the upper reaches of Comerica Park’s rightfield, and the other RBIs came from Adam Eaton and Howie Kendrick. This is the first time the Nationals have seen their record above .500 since April 18th, and since May 24th, the team is now 22-9.

For Anibal Sanchez‘s return to Detroit, he went 6.0 innings where he had eight strikeouts and only surrendered one run. Sanchez got his ERA back under 4.00+ at 3.82, and he now has not lost a game in six starts after returning from the 10-day IL. Manager Dave Martinez left Sanchez in with a high pitch count, and he finished at 110 pitches of which 73 were strikes. In those six starts since returning from the 10-day IL in May, he has held teams to a 2.29 ERA and an opposing batting average of just .206 with a 6.4 K/BB rate.

“His pitch count was a little up,” Martinez said about Sanchez’s 110 pitch count. “But he was adamant that he could go out and go finish the sixth inning. We got him up to 105 pitches, and I think that was the most this year.”

According to the game stats, Sanchez threw 110 pitches. Maybe Davey’s clicker was off tonight in the dugout.

One of the footnotes of the game was the insertion of Ryan Zimmerman into the starting lineup on his first game after returning from the injured list. Zim had an infield hit and a walk on a 1-3 game, but when he batted in the 8th inning with Howie Kendrick in scoring position and the righty Jose Cisnero on the mound, Martinez could have pinch-hit with Matt Adams but chose to stick with Zimmerman who struck out on ball in the dirt.  The media did not ask Davey Martinez about the strategy there.

Maybe the biggest surprise in the game was Fernando Rodney going to the mound in the 9th inning for the save The 42-year-old stepped up and made his manager look good after giving him this opportunity.  He shutdown the Tigers with an efficient 1-2-3 inning with two strikeouts and a groundout for the save.

“Nationals are a very good team,” Rodney said. “I got a chance to play here tonight and see how good this thing is. I came ready for something special.”

After the final out, Rodney went to his trademarked bow and arrow pose. That save by Rodney tied a record as that was a save with his ninth different club which tied  a big league record with Octavio Dotel and Goose Gossage.

The bullpen was excellent tonight as the group threw three innings of no-hit baseball with Javy Guerra taking the seventh inning, and Tanner Rainey had the eighth inning before turning the ball over to the new guy.

“With Fernando, he’s done it. He has pitched in big moments,” Martinez said. “He gets it. For me today with Doo was not available, he was the guy for me in the ninth.”

From the oldest player on the team to the youngest, everyone is contributing.  For the 20-year-old, Juan Soto, that mammoth home run also marked the 200th hit of his young career making him the third youngest to reach that mark trailing only Robin Yount, Cesar Cedeno, and a kid named Ken Griffey, Jr. That is some rarefied air in that group.

The team got to bed last night at 4:00 am, and Davey Martinez admitted the team, and himself, were tired and would head back to the hotel for some much-needed rest before they have to return tomorrow for an earlier start time with a mid-afternoon game.

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