Skipper's gamble with Aníbal doesn't pay off

October 26th, 2019

WASHINGTON -- Nationals manager Dave Martinez considered it. He did.

Martinez weighed his options after Victor Robles tripled to score the Nats’ first run in the fourth inning on Friday night in Game 3 of the World Series at Nationals Park. Robles’ hit had cut the Astros’ lead to two and had a sellout crowd rocking. Martinez could have sent a pinch-hitter to the plate for right-hander , but instead he had Sánchez hit for himself. Sánchez struck out on a foul bunt in an eventual 4-1 loss.

“I seriously thought about it, yeah,” Martinez said. “But you know what? I liked the way Sánchez was pitching. He only had [65] pitches. I thought the way things were going … we put the ball in play, just couldn’t put the ball in play with runners in scoring position.”

In other words, Martinez thought the Nationals were going to get to Astros right-hander Zack Greinke eventually, so he chose to keep his starting pitcher in the game and save his arms in the bullpen -- even though Sánchez was about to face the top of the dangerous Astros lineup for the third time, with George Springer set to lead off the fifth. On the season, Sánchez allowed a .923 OPS to batters when facing them the third time in the game, compared to .702 the second time.

Sánchez would subsequently allow a run apiece in each of the next two frames and recorded only four more outs before being pulled with one out in the sixth.

“I don’t think I had too many pitches by that point,” Sánchez said. “I think if we had more people on base, probably.”

Sánchez allowed four runs on 10 hits (including one home run) and one walk in 5 1/3 innings in a loss that cut the Nats’ World Series lead to two games to one. Sánchez allowed one run in 12 2/3 innings in his first two starts this postseason, including a masterful performance in his last start in Game 1 of the National League Championship Series against the Cardinals. He carried a no-hitter into the eighth inning.

That was two weeks ago.

On Friday, Josh Reddick hit a flare into left field that fell for a hit in the second inning to allow Carlos Correa to score and make it 1-0. Michael Brantley deflected a ball off Sánchez’s glove in the third inning to score Jose Altuve to make it 2-0. Brantley singled home Altuve again in the fifth, and Robinson Chirinos smacked a solo home run off the left-field foul pole in the sixth inning to make it 4-1.

“I missed a couple pitches,” Sánchez said. “Chirinos, he put a really good swing on it.”