Revenge? Sixto goes distance vs. former club

September 13th, 2020

Nine pitches. Seven strikes. Two strikeouts. One groundout.

It all added up to one big shutdown fourth inning for rookie sensation Sixto Sánchez on Sunday in the Marlins’ 2-1 seven-inning win over the Phillies in Game 1 of a doubleheader at Marlins Park.

The Marlins had just pushed two runs across in the third inning off Ramón Rosso to claim a 2-1 lead. Momentum had swung to Miami, and Sánchez in the fourth inning made sure it stayed that way with a crisp, nine-pitch inning against a tough part of the Phillies' order.

Once a touted Phillies prospect, Sánchez was dealt to the Marlins before the 2019 season as part of the J.T. Realmuto trade. The 22-year-old, who is Miami's No. 1 prospect according to MLB Pipeline, faced his former organization for the first time on Sunday, and he went the distance, allowing three hits.

“I've got to tell you, I was more motivated to pitch against the Phillies,” Sánchez said through an interpreter. “I had my plan. I went out there with my head held high and got the victory. That makes me really happy.”

Sánchez logged Miami’s first complete game of the season. In 2019, Sandy Alcantara was the only Marlins starter to go the distance, doing it twice.

"That was huge to throw the complete game there," Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. "He kept his pitch count down, and he kind of stayed on the attack all game long.”

Along with personal motivation, Sánchez’s performance was especially significant because of the impact it has on the club’s playoff chase. It improved Miami to 22-21 and marked the club’s third win in five games of this seven-game series.

After getting through the sixth inning, Mattingly asked Sánchez how he felt. He was at 75 pitches at the time. Sánchez took the seventh inning, in which he struck out Alec Bohm with a 100.4 mph fastball, and he stranded two to improve to 3-1 with a 1.69 ERA.

Since the pitch-tracking era started in 2008, Sánchez is the 11th starting pitcher to record a strikeout on a pitch 100 mph or higher in the seventh inning or later.

“With Bohm, I wanted to strike him out with a fastball,” Sánchez said. “That's what I wanted to do.”

So much of what Sánchez, MLB Pipeline’s No. 22 overall prospect, has been able to do is measurable by numbers. Two of his four-seam fastballs, per Statcast, reached 100 mph or higher (not 99.5 or higher rounded up). He had 20 four-seamers average 98.7 mph, and his top sinker was 99.7 mph.

Possessing the power is just part of why he’s had big success early on. Sánchez shows tremendous composure and control, although he did walk three batters; he entered the game with two in 25 innings.

The overpowering fourth inning was an example of how Sánchez continued his maturity in his fifth big league start.

The Phillies challenged Sánchez again in the sixth inning, threatening with two outs. Andrew McCutchen walked and Jean Segura legged out an infield single to second. After a brief mound visit by pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre Jr., Sánchez retired Bryce Harper on a 1-2 changeup. Harper hit a hard ground ball, 105.2 mph, but it went right at second baseman Isan Díaz.

In the fourth inning, as well, Sánchez navigated his way through Segura’s at-bat on four pitches and retired Harper on a first-pitch, 97.1 mph sinker that was grounded to second. Bohm went down looking on a 92 mph changeup.

The Phillies claimed their only lead in the second inning on a leadoff double by Bohm, who scored on Andrew Knapp’s sacrifice fly. The Marlins got to Rosso in the third, with RBI singles from Corey Dickerson and Starling Marte.

Rosso and Sánchez developed a close friendship in the Phillies system.

"I was very excited to share the mound with him,” Rosso said through the team’s interpreter. “We’re still good friends. … I think he’ll be a great pitcher. He has a lot of potential. If he keeps working hard, he can definitely get there.”

The Marlins threatened for more in the fourth, having the bases full with one out, but they came away with just those two runs.

"It got a little nervous in that first game, because we weren't able to add on," Mattingly said. "We had the bases loaded and one out. Those are points in a game where a hit thee, or a couple of hits there, you kind of put that game away early. Sixto really took us the rest of the way with that."