S�nchez cements himself in D.C. baseball history

 nbcsports.com  10/12/2019 11:25:00 

Anibal Snchez's name can officially be added to the still short, but growing list of Nationals postseason heroes. 

Put him up there with Juan Soto, who had the go-ahead RBI against the Brewers in the NL Wild Card game, and Howie Kendrick, who hit a grand slam in the 10th inning of Game 5 against the Dodgers on Wednesday to push the Nats to their first NL Championship Series. 

Jayson Werth is certainly on there thanks to his walk-off homer in Game 4 of the 2012 NLDS. And Stephen Strasburg has already had a few memorable moments, including his Game 4 start against the Cubs in 2017 and his Game 2 start vs. the Dodgers on Oct. 4.

But Snchez now owns claim to something that cannot be disputed. He has thrown the best start in Nationals playoff history. 

He was surgical on Friday night against a St. Louis Cardinals team that in their previous game put up 10 runs in the first inning alone. He went 7 2/3 shutout innings with only one hit and one walk allowed and two hit batters.

Sanchez didn't allow a single baserunner until the fourth inning and his lone hit was to the very last batter he faced. He was four outs away from just the third no-hitter in MLB postseason history. 

Though he fell short of that distinction, he already distinguished himself in D.C. baseball lore. It was the longest start without allowing a run for a Washington pitcher since Earl Whitehill pitched a shutout in the 1933 World Series against the New York Giants. Walter Johnson also went a full nine without giving up a run in the 1924 World Series against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

But that's it, those are the only two pitchers ever to go further in a Washington jersey without giving up a run. Only one other pitcher in franchise history, Ray Burris of the Montreal Expos, threw more shutout innings in a postseason start. He also threw a shutout back in the 1981 NLCS against the Dodgers.

There have been other strong pitching performances by Nats pitchers in October, but nothing qutie like what Sanchez pulled off on Friday night. The candidates for second-best playoff start by a Nats pitcher would be Max Scherzer in Game 4 of this year's NLDS (7 IP, ER), Strasburg in that Game 4 against the Cubs in 2017 (7 IP, 0 ER, 12 SO), Strasburg in Game 1 of that series (7 IP, 2 R, 0 ER, 10 SO) and Doug Fister in Game 3 of the 2014 NLDS against the Giants (7 IP, 0 ER).

But Snchez clearly has them beat both given the numbers he produced and the fact it was in a deeper round of the playoffs. It also, of course, went way beyond the stats.

The Nationals were desperate to have Sanchez go deep in this game because of the state of their bullpen, which was already a concern before closer Daniel Hudson left the team on the paternity list. With him unavailable, Snchez's ideal start would include going at least 7 2/3 innings to create a bridge to Sean Doolittle, and that is exactly what he did. The Nats used only two pitchers to escape with a 2-0 victory and only 10 total players because there were no pinch-hitters.

Snchez stepped up and delivered a gem in the biggest game in Nats history so far. It was the best outing of Sanchez' postseason career, though not by much. He's made a habit of doing this on baseball's biggest stage.

Snchez also threw seven scoreless frames in Game 2 of the 2012 ALCS when he was with the Tigers. And he took a no-hitter through six innings in Game 1 of the ALCS back in 2013. Scherzer actually started Game 2 of that series and will do the same for the Nats on Saturday.

Snchez has put together quite the postseason career to this point. While his regular season career ERA sits at a modest 3.98, it plummets to 2.57 in the playoffs. The sample size isn't all that small either, now at 56 innings spanning five different postseasons.

Considering that, one could make the argument the Nats have a Big Four and not just a Big Three when it comes to the playoffs. Sanchez is often overshadowed by Scherzer, Strasburg and Patrick Corbin, but his October results speak for themselves.

Snchez is now through 12.2 innings this postseason with the Nats having only allowed one run. That should make them feel very good about having him pitch again in this series, which has him lined up to throw Game 5.

The Nats are now up 1-0 on the Cardinals, three wins away from a World Series berth. And they have their rotation lined up to be Scherzer in Game 2, Strasburg in Game 3 and Corbin in Game 4. If necessary, Snchez would throw Game 5, Scherzer would take Game 6 and Strasburg would be ready for a Game 7.

That doesn't sound good for St. Louis.

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Anbal Snchez chased history with his usual blend of pitches.Soft away, a fastball which looked a little snappier because so many other slow pitches worked before and after it.Pitches down, pitches up, pitches in and pitches out; an edge painter who had all his strokes working masterfully on a frigid October night in Missouri.

The Cardinals could not hit tame them for a hit until two outs in the eighth inning. Snchez left the mound then with a 2-0 lead. Sean Doolittle made it hold. The Nationals took a 1-0 lead in the organizations first best-of-seven National League Championship Series because of a combined one-hit shutout.

Game 2 is Saturday afternoon. Washington sends Max Scherzer to the mound in his native state to pursue a rare 2-0 lead after opening on the road. 

In a blink, Snchez finished four innings. He allowed just a walk, threw 45 pitches -- 29 for strikes -- and clicked along with a 1-0 lead. Yan Gomes provided it with a second-inning double.

He zipped through the fifth inning on just 11 pitches. Still no hits. And, a perfect alignment for the situation Washington started the game in.

Snchezs efficiency came on a night when Daniel Hudson was not in the bullpen. The Friday birth of Hudsons daughter put him on the paternity list. It also extracted one of the two reliable relievers who exist in the Nationals bullpen. Davey Martinez used a lot of well see when discussing how the back of the game would work Friday night without Hudson. Snchez considerably cut into those issues through the first five innings.

Yet, the bullpen and a tenuous lead loomed. Washingtons seven hits in six innings against St. Louis starter Miles Mikolas led to just a run when Gomes drove in Howie Kendrick. They struck out seven times. Juan Soto rolled over a Mikolas curveball with the bases loaded and received some chirping from him and the St. Louis crowd, which booed him earlier in the game. Sotos movement in the batters box -- better known as the Soto Shuffle -- continues to draw eyeballs and a touch of ire as his exposure broadens during the postseason.

Snchez continued to make the shallow lead hold in the sixth. A strikeout preceded Randy Arozarena being hit by a pitch, leading to just the second Cardinals runner of the evening. Arozarena stole second without a throw. He ended up on third base after a ground out to the right side. No matter. Snchez closed the inning via a fly ball to center field. He calmly walked off the mound needing only 75 pitches to hold St. Louis hitless through six innings. 

Adam Eaton tripled one out into the seventh. Anthony Rendon was intentionally walked. Soto came up, lanky left-hander Andrew Miller came in to tussle with him. A seven-pitch at-bat ended with Soto swinging through a middle-of-the-zone slider. St. Louis manager Mike Shildt returned to the mound. Kendrick was next. 

John Brebbias second pitch to Kendrick ended up in center field. Eaton scored. The Nationals doubled their meager lead to 2-0 because the 35-year-old once again came through. Meanwhile, Snchez waited in the dugout while the top of the seventh dragged for half an hour.

The extended break had no effect on him. He marched through the seventh without allowing a hit, though he did plunk another batter. Snchez was due up second in the top of the eighth. Martinez decided to let him hit for himself in what became a 1-2-3 inning. He returned to the mound 89 pitches into his outing, having allowed just one hard-hit ball, and on a path to possible the only other two men -- Don Larsen and Roy Halladay -- to throw postseason no-hitters. He was already tied for the fourth-longest no-hit outing in National League postseason history. Tanner Rainey and Sean Doolittle warmed while Snchez chased history.

Tommy Edman drove Snchez to a full count before hitting a line drive to the right of Ryan Zimmerman, who crossed over, dove and snared what would have spoiled the evenings pursuit. Snchez pumped his fist. Bench coach Chip Hale screamed in the chilly dugout. Zimmerman popped to his knees, dusted himself off and tossed the ball to Howie Kendrick. Paul Dejong flew out a pitch later. Free-swinging Jose Martinez was next. He drove the count full to 3-2 as Snchez cracked 100 pitches for the night. Pitch 103 dropped gently into shallow center field.

Snchez tipped his cap to Jose Martinez. Dave Martinez came out of the dugout, part relieved, part disappointed, part worried about what was next. He took the ball from Snchez and summoned Doolittle for a four-out save. A Dexter Fowler groundout provided the first one. On to the ninth.

Doolittle handled Kolten Wongs bunt to open the bottom part of the final inning. Paul Goldschmidt grounded out. 

Washington survived on the wiles of Snchez and shutdown work of Doolittle. Two runs were enough. Scherzer is next. Add another bubbly chapter to this postseason script.

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Its like clockwork: Seemingly every time a pitcher carries a no-hitter deep into a game, a position player makes an outstanding play to keep it alive.

In Game 1 of the NLCS between the Washington Nationals and St. Louis Cardinals, Anbal Snchez entered the eighth inning with a zero in the hit column. Tommy Edman came to the plate and ripped a line drive to the right side of the infield, but Ryan Zimmerman kept the ball from going any further.

AIR ZIMMERMAN pic.twitter.com/gFuTdE8qKU

— Jared Carrabis (@Jared_Carrabis) October 12, 2019

Sanchez lost the no-no two batters later, allowing a single off the bat of Jos Martnez that landed in front of Michael Taylor. Nats manager Davey Martinez immediately pulled him, handing things over to Sean Doolittle to record the final four outs of the game.

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