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Sanchez takes tough luck loss on quiet night

Blue Jays' starter: 'Tonight's probably the first time I've felt like myself in two-and-a-half years'
@baseballexis
July 5, 2019

TORONTO -- There is an air of mystery about Aaron Sanchez this season. Each time the 27-year-old right-hander heads to the hill, he is accompanied by questions surrounding the length he might offer, if a blister or fingernail issue might creep up after becoming so prevalent early in the year,

TORONTO -- There is an air of mystery about Aaron Sanchez this season.

Each time the 27-year-old right-hander heads to the hill, he is accompanied by questions surrounding the length he might offer, if a blister or fingernail issue might creep up after becoming so prevalent early in the year, what kind of command he might display on any given day, where his velocity will sit, and whether he can get back to being the All-Star who led the league in ERA in 2016.

Box score

Sanchez has heard the same questions time and time again, and he has been looking for answers harder than anyone. Whether he found any in Friday night’s 4-1 loss to the Orioles at Rogers Centre or not, the California native had one of his more encouraging performances in a while and finally felt like he was getting back to the Sanchez of old.

“Tonight’s probably the first time I’ve felt like myself in two-and-a-half years,” he said. “So if I continue to throw the ball the way I have tonight, there are going to be a lot of good things that happen in the second half.”

Though Sanchez found himself in trouble early, getting behind hitters and using 53 pitches to get through his first two innings while walking three batters in those frames, the 6-foot-4, 210-pound righty managed to limit the damage to just two runs, bouncing back and finishing five innings.

“[I was] able to get out front with my pitches, being at the bottom part of the zone for the majority of the night,” Sanchez said. “The action on my pitches was kind of moving all over the place. That’s what got me into some trouble, throwing a lot of pitches there through five innings, but I’d probably have to say those keys right there are what’s going to propel me to continue to keep being better.”

Sanchez gave up three hits and walked four Orioles by the time all was said and done, adding five strikeouts to his day. Though Toronto could have used a little more length amid its rotation troubles of late, the end result was a positive one after Sanchez, who went through the worst month of his six-year big league career in June.

“You hit all your check points that you have inside your delivery, and once you’re stable and confident in those areas, everything kind of takes care of itself,” Sanchez said. “Granted, I came out on the opposite side tonight, but there are a lot of good things for myself that I can take with me moving into the second half and I’m excited to work.”

Both Sanchez and Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo were excited to see the hurler’s velocity creep back up to where it has been when he’s found the most success.

“Tonight I had a little extra giddyup on my fastball,” Sanchez said. “You’ve got to respect velocity, and other stuff plays up even better than it is, so that’s the key.”

Added Montoyo: “He was throwing harder today, and he kept that up until his last inning. Then he came down a little bit to 92, but the whole first four innings he was throwing 95, 96, which he hasn’t been able to do. … It was a positive today for what he did today.

“Today he kept that speed up and that helped him. Even though he got in trouble because of walks and a lot of pitches and stuff, he kept us in the game.”

Despite Sanchez’s effort -- and three perfect innings with four strikeouts from Sam Gaviglio in relief -- the home team didn’t have much luck offensively against Baltimore, an uncharacteristic occurrence for the Blue Jays of late.

Before Friday, Toronto had scored six or more runs in eight straight games. Against the Orioles, the team’s lone run was a solo homer from Brandon Drury, his eighth of the season.

With the loss, Sanchez joined Tom Underwood -- who went 3-12 in the first half of 1979 -- as the only pitchers in franchise history with 12 losses at the All-Star break. He also became the first starting pitcher for the Blue Jays to lose 11 consecutive decisions since Ricky Romero had an 0-13 stretch in 2012.

“[It’s about] taking all the good from my last start, flushing all the bad, and having a memory box of just a ton of good things that I’ve done,” Sanchez said of continuing to learn while focusing on the task at hand. “Try to keep translating all the good and stay on top of that, and flush the bad and onto the next.

“You can’t really dwell on this. You take the ball every five days. You’ve got to look forward, you can’t look behind and just can’t get caught up in it.”

Alexis Brudnicki is a reporter/editor for MLB.com based in Toronto. Follow her on Twitter @baseballexis.