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Anibal Sanchez aims to boost reeling Nationals vs. D-backs

Sportsnaut
Jul 14, 2022; Washington, District of Columbia, USA; Washington Nationals starting pitcher Anibal Sanchez (27) throws to the Atlanta Braves during the first inning at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Winners of just two of their last 18 games, the Washington Nationals will turn to 38-year-old right-hander Anibal Sanchez to start Saturday night’s game against the Arizona Diamondbacks in Phoenix.

It will be just the second start since Sept. 26, 2020, for Sanchez (0-1, 7.20 ERĂ…), who sat out the 2021 season and then missed the first 3 1/2 months of this campaign with a cervical nerve impingement in his neck.

One of the key cogs on Washington’s 2019 World Series winning team, Sanchez gave up a two-run homer to both Dansby Swanson and rookie Michael Harris II in a 5-4 loss to Atlanta on July 14. He allowed four runs on as many hits and two walks over five innings while striking out five.

“For two years off, I feel really good,” Sanchez said afterward. “The Braves right now are a pretty hard team. I made two mistakes, and they took advantage of them.”

Sanchez, who is 112-114 in his career, admitted to feeling butterflies in taking the mound for the first time since 2020.

“I had a few years that I didn’t feel that, but today, just everything came back,” he told MLB.com. “For me, it’s being competitive again. That’s the adrenaline. It made me feel good today.”

Sanchez is 5-1 with a 4.13 ERA in 11 career games (10 starts) against Arizona but one win in particular stands out. That came in his rookie season with the then-Florida Marlins on Sept. 6, 2006, when he tossed a no-hitter against the Diamondbacks.

Left-hander Madison Bumgarner (5-9, 3.83) will start for Arizona, which cruised to a 10-1 victory in Friday night’s series opener.

Bumgarner is just 4-6 in 12 career starts against the Nationals but has a solid 2.45 ERA. He picked up the loss in a 6-1 setback at Washington on April 19 but allowed just two unearned runs on two hits over five innings while walking four and striking out five.

Both Sanchez and Bumgarner have a high standard to meet after Arizona’s Zac Gallen tossed 5 2/3 no-hit innings and allowed just two singles over seven scoreless frames on Friday. Cesar Hernandez broke up the no-hit bid with a soft comebacker that deflected off Gallen’s glove and landed between the mound and second base.

“I think it was all about Zac Gallen and his start {Friday),” Arizona manager Torey Lovullo said. “Was looking like he could potentially throw a no-hitter. I was probably the most satisfied person when he did give up that hit. It was a very stressful time for me. We were talking about potential pitch counts and he had good stuff. It obviously showed up during those seven innings. Seven strikeouts and two hits, he set a tone for us.”

The Diamondbacks also racked up 12 hits, including a homer and triple by Ketel Marte and a homer and three hits by Daulton Varsho. Carson Kelly added three hits and a walk.

“We’ve got to keep grinding, we’ve got to keep going,” Lovullo said. “We played a good game but it’s one game. We’ve got to enjoy it, we’ve got to understand what we did right, and continue to keep pressing on. Tomorrow will be a brand-new day where I expect us to do it all over again.”

–Field Level Media