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Nats' Sanchez shows fight in 1st MLB at-bat

MLB.com

ST. LOUIS -- It seems insufficient to say that Adrian Sanchez's first career at-bat came in a high-pressure situation. Coming in as a pinch-hitter with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth, two outs on the board and the team down by one run is by no means an easy scenario to walk into.

Sanchez, however, put together a strong nine-pitch at-bat that ultimately ended in a strikeout, despite his efforts, in the Nationals' 2-1 loss to the Cardinals at Busch Stadium on Saturday.

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ST. LOUIS -- It seems insufficient to say that Adrian Sanchez's first career at-bat came in a high-pressure situation. Coming in as a pinch-hitter with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth, two outs on the board and the team down by one run is by no means an easy scenario to walk into.

Sanchez, however, put together a strong nine-pitch at-bat that ultimately ended in a strikeout, despite his efforts, in the Nationals' 2-1 loss to the Cardinals at Busch Stadium on Saturday.

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"Well, don't try to do too much," Sanchez said about his mentality going into the at-bat. "Try to take a good, quality at-bat to get a good pitch to tie the game or put us on top"

Just prior to his at-bat, Bryce Harper scored the Nationals' only run of the game after he was brought home on Stephen Drew's single in the ninth with two outs. Jose Lobaton's walk after Harper scored loaded the bases for Sanchez.

In his lengthy at-bat against Matt Bowman, who came in as a reliever only to face Sanchez, he was able to come back in the count after starting down 0-2 (a swinging strike and two foul balls). Three balls later, he extended the full count with two more fouls, until a strike was called on the last pitch to end the game. Bowman used a two-seam fastball for seven of the nine pitches.

"After the first swing he took, I thought we might have that pitch over and over again," Bowman said of the at-bat. "But he definitely made an adjustment. I was definitely impressed that he adjusted on the fly there."

Coming into the day, Sanchez had been eager to have his first chance at the plate after being called up on Friday following 10 years in the Nationals' Minor League system. The infielder finally got his opportunity to show what he is capable of by putting together the strong first at-bat he had hoped for.

"He told me before the game, 'I want to get my first at-bat. I'm excited.,'" Lobaton said. "I told him, 'Just relax, because here you're going to play.' And then I saw him [hitting] after me, I was like, 'Oh, woah. What a situation.' He got a chance to tie the game or win the game and it was a really good AB, so I feel like it's something positive for him and for the team, too. So we know that he's ready."

The last pitch in his at-bat appeared to have been off the plate, something the Nationals noticed as well.

"Oh man, that was a heck of an at-bat. … The kid's first at-bat, he wasn't intimidated, he was fighting off pitches," said manager Dusty Baker. "You hate to have an at-bat like that and then it's settled on apparently a bad call. You know, the kid's trying to make a living, too. He tries to make his mark in the big leagues. He was our last man, but we knew that he was going to battle in that at-bat. It just wasn't fair to him."

Sanchez also mentioned that he thought the pitch seemed a bit outside, but will focus on preparing for his next opportunity.

"He struck me out and it was a decision [the umpire] made, and now I've got to get ready for my next chance," Sanchez said. "I felt happy because I had the opportunity to show and do what I've always liked to do my whole life."

Alaina Getzenberg is a reporter for MLB.com based in St. Louis and covered the Nationals on Saturday.

Washington Nationals, Adrian Sanchez