Walks lead to Sanchez's downfall in 2nd inning
Righty shows improved fastball command, but free passes costly in pivotal frame
BALTIMORE -- There were some improvements in Toronto right-hander Aaron Sanchez's fastball command on Wednesday night, but he momentarily lost it during the second inning and that was all it took to send the Blue Jays to a 6-1 loss to the Orioles.
Sanchez walked the first two batters he faced in the second, and that set the table for what proved to be a game-changing inning. In the past, Sanchez has been able to mask some of his control issues by inducing weak contact, but that wasn't the case against the Orioles.
Caleb Joseph, Manny Machado and Alejandro De Aza all doubled as the Orioles sent nine batters to the plate in the five-run frame. That was more than enough to allow Baltimore to cruise the rest of the way en route to the series victory.
"I think in baseball you try to stay away from those big innings, and I just couldn't find a way to get it done," said Sanchez, who allowed more than three earned runs for the first time in his career. "There were a couple of times I had guys [behind in the count], and I didn't put them away. Other than that, I thought the game went pretty well."
The high number of walks has been a constant concern for Sanchez during his first season as a starter in the big leagues. He entered the game having thrown just 57 percent of his pitches for strikes, which was the second-lowest rate in the Major Leagues behind Colorado's Tyler Matzek.
Sanchez also has issued the most free passes in baseball with 29. Both of his walks in the second came around to score, and two more walks in the sixth ultimately chased him from the game. The good news is that he was at least able to limit the damage and didn't allow another run to score after the troublesome second inning.
Right-hander Liam Hendriks deserves some credit for that as well, because he stranded both of Sanchez's runners in the sixth.
"The game plan after giving up five runs was to just keep them right there for the remainder of the time that I was out there, and I felt like I did a good job," Sanchez said. "Obviously, the guys that came in behind me did a good job.
"I felt like I had good command of my changeup. My curveball wasn't really where I wanted it. Fastball command was better, but like I said, I'll take the good from this start, move on and be ready for my next start."