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Sánchez solid vs. Phils: 'It's how you finish'

@jessicacamerato
September 21, 2020

WASHINGTON -- Aníbal Sánchez didn’t think his numbers this season had properly reflected how he knew he could pitch. After his first nine outings of 2020, he was 2-5 with a 7.38 ERA. “I proved through many years that I’m better than that,” Sánchez said after giving up a season-high

WASHINGTON -- Aníbal Sánchez didn’t think his numbers this season had properly reflected how he knew he could pitch. After his first nine outings of 2020, he was 2-5 with a 7.38 ERA.

“I proved through many years that I’m better than that,” Sánchez said after giving up a season-high six runs to the Rays last Tuesday. “But right now, it’s not coming out good and I want to finish in a different way.”

When he took the mound for his 10th start of his 15th season on Monday against the Phillies, the stats exemplified a solid performance. The right-hander allowed just one run off four hits and four walks while striking out six over five innings in Washington's 5-1 win at Nationals Park.

Box score

Sánchez held the division rivals scoreless for 4 2/3 frames until Mickey Moniak scored on a balk.

“I know what I’ve got in Aníbal,” manager Dave Martinez said. “He competes. He beats himself up a little because he cares; he cares about his teammates and he cares about us. I told him, ‘Just go out there and have fun -- that’s who you are -- and compete.' When he does that, he does well. He was pumped up today. He kept us in the ballgame.”

Sánchez used his full arsenal over the course of his 105 pitches, mixing in his four-seam fastball (34 percent), splitter (29 percent), cutter (18 percent), changeup (8 percent), curveball (7 percent) and sinker (5 percent). He said he honed in on locating the ball down, especially his changeup against lefties, and looked for swing and misses. Sánchez also focused on quickly getting the ball out of his glove and to his target, so there wouldn’t be a pause in his mechanics that would allow the hitters to recognize the pitch.

“The word we use for him is finding that rhythm. Tonight, he found it and he made some big pitches,” Martinez said. “He had some 3-2 counts a lot, but he made that big pitch. That’s who he is. We talk a lot about him attacking the strike zone down, and he did that tonight really, really well.”

Sánchez also paired up with catcher Kurt Suzuki to throw out Alec Bohm and Jean Segura in the first and second innings, respectively, to slow down the opposition's running game. The Phillies rank seventh in the Majors in stolen bases and had been caught stealing only five times all season.

“We asked Sánchy, just try to give Zuk a chance when these guys steal,” Martinez said. “Zuk made two great throws. That was awesome, kind of shut their running game down. … Sánchy cut down on his time, he gave Suzuki a chance to throw them out.”

Monday was quite a different result from Sánchez's other start against the Phillies this season. On Sept. 3, he surrendered four runs off eight hits (including a home run) and struck out just one batter in 3 1/3 innings, his second-shortest start of 2020.

“I always, in baseball, say, 'It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish,'” Sánchez said. “Right now, I feel really good in what I’ve done today.”

Kieboom exits
Carter Kieboom sustained a bone contusion in his left hand after being hit by a 95.2 mph sinker from Phillies starter Zack Wheeler in the sixth inning. The third baseman appeared to be in immediate discomfort, grabbing his hand and exiting the game after being looked at by Martinez and director of athletic training Paul Lessard.

“It was loud," Martinez said. "You don’t want to ever assume anything, but he was hurting pretty good. I talked to him after the game, he said he felt OK. So he’s going to be sore for at least a day or so. We’ll see how he feels tomorrow.”

Jessica Camerato covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @jessicacamerato, Facebook and Instagram.