Anibal Sanchez throws a gem and had a key RBI…but why 112 pitches with a 9-0 lead?

The sleep deprived Nats got an ace performance from Anibal Sanchez to win 9-3 in this opener in Wrigley where the Cubs had a .698 winning percentage this season. As most teams do when travel goes overnight, they send the starting pitcher ahead, and Sanchez arrived early in Chicago yesterday and well ahead of the rest of his team who got into the hotel at 2am local time after their plane landed at 12:44 AM (Chicago time). He  had a one-hit shutout going to the end of the 8th inning as well as a hot bat in the game. “Alejo“, as Sanchez’s jersey nameplate was embroidered for Player’s Weekend, baffled the Cubs all game. He had no-hit stuff and a low pitch count that allowed him to keep going in this game. Alejo is a term Hispanic pitches use for “away” as in pitch him “away” and in this game Anibal went away, up, down and inside. He worked all part of the zone with seven different pitch types and had his pitches dancing. He started the game with an .050 batting average and almost doubled it to .093 with his 2-hits. Sanchez did not have an RBI since April 9th of 2014, and in this 3-0 game he bunted with 2-outs and bases loaded, and the ball stuck to the line for an RBI hit. It was a gutsy move, and it worked. 

What was a feel-great game ended with some angst as manager Dave Martinez allowed Sanchez to go for the complete game, and he just did not have it in the 9th inning and set a season high with 112 pitches as he was pulled as the shutout ended. Why was it necessary to go all the way? This was not a no-hitter — this was a one-hitter. Hopefully Sanchez will not have any residual issues — as he will either pitch next on one day or possibly two days extra rest if nobody is skipped in the rotation.

Sanchez set up the second run of the game after he laid down a great sacrifice bunt to push Victor Robles to third base giving Trea Turner a chance to knock him in which is how that worked out with a manufactured run that began innocently enough with a Robles infield single off of Kris Bryant’s glove and ruled a hit. Robles then stole second base then the sac bunt pushed him to third base and the Turner sacrifice fly scored the second run of the game. That was some impressive small ball and who knew if this was going to be a close game. The Nats scored all ways with home runs and small ball, and Juan Soto got off of three tough games to finish the Pittsburgh series to go 3-4 today with a home run and four runs scored.

Every Nats starter had a hit in this game, and Anibal Sanchez had two of the Nats 14 hits as the Nats knocked Jon Lester out of the game at the 4 1/3 inning mark. For the Nats starter, his final line was 8 1/3 IP 112 PC  1 H 1 ER 2 BB 6 K, and his ERA improved to 3.81 after his rough outing against the Brewers six days ago.

As Dan Kolko said in the MASN postgame report, the National arrived at Wrigley field on five hours of sleep, and you would never know it. The players would never complain about it because you accept what you cannot control in this line of work and hope your union changes what is not fair in the next CBA. The MLBPA did make new travel provisions in the last CBA, and expect more in the next one to protect player safety. They all got their pre-game energy shot and the second batter of the game, Adam Eaton, cranked a line drive home run to get the Nats quickly on the board and get things going.

“They were a little less energy this morning,” Dave Martinez said. “But once they got closer to the game, we hit in the cage, [and] they got ready to play, and you guys saw how they reacted to the day.”

The doubters keep saying the Nats do not beat good teams, but the Nats once again beat a good team and let’s be real — if the Nats had an above average bullpen they would be 25 games over .500 instead of the 14 games they are currently at in the standings. That is the reality, and the Nats just have to build on what they did this afternoon. If the Nats played .500 baseball the rest of the way, they would finish at 88-wins, but as hot as the Phillies, Mets, and the top three teams in the NL Central are, it might take 92 wins to secure the number one spot in the Wild Card. To get to 92 wins, you have to be at 22 games over .500 and the Nats would need to go 21-13 the rest of the way.

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