TORONTO -- Having been damaged by the long ball nearly as frequently as any other pitcher since the start of 2015, Anibal Sanchez has learned it's in his best interest to make every effort to live on the corners of the plate.
Sanchez's ability to consistently command his array of pitches has enabled him to rejuvenate his career this season. But as he nibbled his way toward two walks during the key fourth inning of Wednesday afternoon's 5-4 loss to the Blue Jays, the Braves right-hander cost himself a chance to add another strong start to his ledger.
"He's a guy who is going to continue to make pitches. He's not going to give in to a hitter," Atlanta manager Brian Snitker said. "That's why he's been successful here. He doesn't give in. He might have been off a tick, but overall, he gave us a chance."
As Sanchez allowed four runs and issued a season-high four walks over five innings, he wasn't as efficient as he'd been in most of his previous six starts. But once the Braves finally chased Blue Jays starter J.A. Happ in the process of tallying two ninth-inning runs, the decisive damage came courtesy of the seventh-inning run tallied against Shane Carle and A.J. Minter.
"Location-wise today, they didn't give me the opportunity to be ahead in the count, especially with the big guys," Sanchez said. "Every pitched we missed, we paid for."
Sanchez elevated a 2-0 fastball that Kendrys Morales drilled over the right-field wall for a two-run homer in the first inning. This wasn't exactly anything new for the right-hander, who entered this start having allowed MLB's second-highest home runs per nine innings rate since the start of 2015.
As Sanchez had posted a 2.10 ERA over his six previous starts, he had also minimized the damage created by the long ball. He allowed a homer within the first three innings of two of his previous three starts this month, and then he proceeded to limit his damage to two runs while pitching into the sixth inning on both occasions.
But Sanchez's bid to once again shake off the early damage began to unravel in the bottom of the fourth, when he issued Morales a leadoff walk after getting ahead with an 0-2 count. Two batters later, a 1-2 count against Russell Martin evolved into a walk. Randal Grichuk followed with an RBI double, and Martin scored on Aledmys Diaz's sacrifice fly.
"I think I threw pitches that could help me [retire] those guys, but I think I was a little bit off," Sanchez said. "I don't want to miss anything in the middle."
The damage done in the fourth inning was enough support for Happ, who allowed six hits over 8 1/3 innings. Kurt Suzuki homered in the second inning and Peter Bourjos added a solo shot in the third. But after Ozzie Albies followed Bourjos' homer with a double, Happ retired 13 straight and 20 of the final 23 batters he faced.
With Happ dealing, Sanchez had to live with the fact he was just a pitch or two away from extending his success. He had issued just three walks while limiting opponents to a .138 batting average with a 0.93 ERA over his previous three starts this month.
"Those two walks in the fourth inning, that was the difference," Sanchez said. "Giving up a homer in the first inning could be normal."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Decisive seventh:Devon Travis began the bottom of the frame with a double off Carle, who retired the next two batters he faced before exiting. Snitker then called upon Minter to force switch-hitter Yangervis Solarte to bat from the right side. Solarte hit just .221 (17-for-77) against lefties through June 1. But once he singled Travis home with the winning run, he found himself hitting .364 (8-for-22) against southpaws over his past 11 games.
Ninth-inning rally: Happ surrendered just four hits before Freddie Freeman and Nick Markakis chased him with consecutive one-out singles in the ninth. Suzuki followed with an RBI single off Dennis Tepera, who then allowed the Braves to pull within one run on Ender Inciarte's two-out infield single. But the Blue Jays reliever ended the game with Johan Camargo's flyout to center field.
"With this lineup, you've always got a chance," Markakis said. "You get a couple guys on, and anything can happen. Camargo put a good swing on it. He just got under it a little bit. That's how the ball bounces sometimes."
Following the lead of Camargo, who drilled his first grand slam in Tuesday's series opener, Bourjos provided some power from the bottom of the order. His one-out homer off Happ in the third inning was the seventh home run Atlanta has tallied from the ninth spot of its lineup.
Markakis started at one of the corner-outfield positions during each of the Braves' first 72 games this season before serving as the designated hitter in the series finale against the Blue Jays. Since undergoing neck surgery before the 2015 season, Markakis has logged more outfield innings (4,664 2/3) than any other Major Leaguer.
"It was good to get Nick a day off the turf by [serving as the DH]," Snitker said. "Now with the off-day, that will hopefully allow his legs to take a little break."
HE SAID IT
"He's always tough. He's got good life on his fastball, and he pitches. He's always been a thorn in the side. We got to him early, but then he settled down." -- Markakis, on Happ, who has a 2.72 ERA over eight career starts against Atlanta
Sean Newcomb will attempt to enhance his All-Star credentials when the Braves welcome Kevin Gausman and the Orioles to SunTrust Park for the start of a three-game series on Friday at 7:35 p.m. ET. Newcomb has a MLB-high six scoreless starts of at least six scoreless innings. The 25-year-old southpaw has posted a 1.80 ERA over his past four home starts.