Blue Jays' Sanchez leads Rafters with sharp start
Top prospect allows one hit over 4 1/3 frames in Salt River's fourth straight win
The Solar Sox began Monday as the Arizona Fall League's highest-scoring offense. By the end of the day, they would no longer have that title, thanks in part to Salt River right-hander Aaron Sanchez.
Sanchez allowed one hit in 4 1/3 scoreless innings against Mesa on Monday. Behind his strong start, Salt River defeated Mesa, 3-2, at HoHoKam Stadium. The victory extended the Rafters' winning streak to four games.
Sanchez, who is ranked No. 20 on MLB.com's Top 100 prospect list, hasn't allowed a run in three of the four starts he has made in the AFL. But his last two starts have been especially good. He threw four no-hit innings last Wednesday and he has struck out four batters in back-to-back starts.
Sanchez said he doesn't look for strikeouts. Instead, he aims to create soft contact early in the count.
"They're aggressive out here," Sanchez said. "They want the heater and they're seeing the heater. The strikeouts will come. As long as I'm getting weak contact, that's all I can ask for."
Sanchez threw 61 pitches in his longest start of the fall. He has been dominant as he tries to make up for innings he lost to a shoulder injury early this season. He has allowed five hits and struck out 10 batters in 13 1/3 innings.
Sanchez said he has had no choice but to step up to the challenge of the AFL.
"We're out here with the best of the best and that's where I want to be," Sanchez said. "You have to be on your "A" game or something can go south real quick."
While Sanchez was putting zeros on the scoreboard Monday, Mesa starter Tommy Collier also continued his exceptional fall. The right-hander allowed just three hits in five innings to extend his scoreless-innings streak to 11.
But once Collier was out of the game, Salt River was able to put together some offense. Kyle Parker, the Rockies' No. 9 prospect, led off the seventh inning with a double off reliever Kenny Faulk. Two batters later, Andy Burns drove him in with a single.
Burns came around to score later in the inning and the Rafters added an insurance run in the eighth inning. Burns finished the game 2-for-4 with a stolen base. Jake Lamb, the D-backs' No. 11 prospect, went 3-for-4 with a run and a double.
Those insurance runs would prove to be important when Kris Bryant hit a two-run home run in the eighth inning. It was his league-leading fifth home run of the fall and brought the Solar Sox within a run. But it would be all Mesa would get. Right-hander Jake Barrett threw a scoreless ninth for his second save.
Bryant, the Cubs' No. 4 prospect, finished the game 1-for-3 with a walk. Jorge Soler, the Cubs' No. 3 prospect, went 1-for-3 with a walk and a ninth-inning single, extending his hitting streak to 11 games.
But it wasn't enough to overcome Salt River's pitching. Sanchez said the Rafters know with so many good hitters in the AFL, it doesn't take much to start a rally, so they have come right after everyone.
It is a challenge Sanchez is happy to embrace.
"I'm just trying to get innings," Sanchez said. "All I need is mound experience. I want to attack the zone and have fun. That's the biggest thing, having fun."