A hanging slider hands Sixto his first loss

September 3rd, 2020

Effective. Efficient. Electric.

Sixto Sánchez on Wednesday night was all of the above in his third big league start. But in the fifth inning, he wasn’t exactly precise on a slider, and it cost him.

Lourdes Gurriel Jr. connected on a two-run homer off Sánchez, and that was the difference as the Blue Jays edged the Marlins, 2-1, to gain a split in the two-game Interleague series at Marlins Park.

The Marlins (16-16) had chances off Hyun Jin Ryu, but they scratched out just one run in six innings. Miami went 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position and left nine on base.

As a result, Sánchez took a loss for the first time in his young MLB career. He is 1-1 with a 2.37 ERA. In his last two starts, he has allowed only two runs in 14 innings, but the Marlins have lost both times.

As impressive as Sánchez’s stat line looked -- two runs on six hits with no walks and five strikeouts on 79 pitches over seven innings -- Miami manager Don Mattingly noted the rookie wasn’t as dominant as in his previous outings.

“That's like the least I've seen him,” Mattingly said. “I feel like he made a lot of mistakes around the high thigh. A lot of balls I think he got away with some pitches. But he changes speeds, and that tells you what kind of guy he is when he's not the guy who was dominant the other day. But still, obviously, really good.”

In his last outing, Sánchez tossed seven shutout innings in a no-decision against the Rays. On Wednesday, the 22-year-old right-hander kept the Blue Jays off the board until the fifth, when Gurriel connected on a hanging slider for a two-run homer.

“I was trying to throw the pitch, low and outside, and it actually did the opposite,” Sánchez said through an interpreter. “It went low and inside. It happened. Things happen in baseball.”

According to Statcast, the drive to left-center projected at 408 feet, with an exit velocity of 103.3 mph. Rowdy Tellez had a broken-bat single that set up Gurriel’s blast.

The homer snapped a string of 11 straight scoreless innings by Sánchez.

Toronto (19-16) is among the top home run-hitting teams in the Majors, with 55 on the season -- good for top 10 in the Majors. Though Sánchez allowed the long ball to Gurriel, it was the only runs the Blue Jays scored.

The Blue Jays did help Sánchez out with some baserunning mistakes. Jonathan Villar, traded to Toronto by the Marlins on Monday, was picked off first and third base.

“Today, it hurt more because of the guy on the mound,” Toronto manager Charlie Montoyo said. “That kid is a pretty good-looking prospect. He's probably one of the best arms I've seen this year, so I knew that if we gave away outs on the bases, it was going to be tough to score. That's how it was.”

The Marlins responded to Gurriel's homer in the fifth with three straight two-out hits off Ryu, trimming the deficit to 2-1 on 's RBI single.

But left-handed pitching continues to hurt the Marlins, who are 2-8 in starts against southpaws compared to 14-8 against right-handers. Mattingly acknowledged the club had to "solve the riddle."

“We did have him on the ropes a little bit,” Mattingly said of Ryu. “It seemed like as the game went on, we had a couple of more chances with him. He's a guy who is not going to give in. He's going to keep pitching, keep making pitches. He knows where he's at in the order. He's going to avoid certain guys to get to other guys.”

As the offense scuffled, Sánchez seemed to respond to the lone run Miami would get.

Sánchez didn’t throw a pitch as fast as 99 mph through five innings, according to Statcast. In the sixth, his four-seamer clocked in at 99.7 mph. In the seventh, he ran a sinker up to 99.4 mph.

“In the beginning of the game, I was very excited,” Sánchez said. “Very hot on the mound. But after that, when I saw the run [fifth inning], and after those couple of innings, I was able to focus a little more, concentrate, get my outs and get those last two innings.”