Manager Davey Martinez said this week that for AnÃbal SÃ¡nchez to get back to being the pitcher who nearly threw a no-hitter in Game 1 of the 2019 National League Championship Series, the right-hander would have to get the ball down.
But in his first two starts this season, SÃ¡nchez has not been able to do that, to the tune of nine runs allowed and an 0-2 record.
Unfortunately, SÃ¡nchez is still looking for that command.
Despite a mammoth three-run homer from Juan Soto, SÃ¡nchez lasted only 2 2/3 innings as the Mets came back to beat the Nationals 11-6. He gave up five runs on six hits including a homer for his third loss in as many starts.
"He's not locating any of his pitches," Martinez said on his postgame Zoom video call. "He's falling behind. Haven't seen him like that. Just got to get him right. I actually think that he might be throwing a little too much. He throws every day. So, we are going to talk to him tomorrow, maybe try to get him to not throw as much on his off-days and get him back on a different routine."
The Nats are also concerned about a couple of injuries suffered during the game.
Left-hander Sam Freeman left in the bottom of the fourth after throwing a pitch to Jeff McNeil. He signaled to director of athletic training Paul Lessard and quickly left the mound.
Martinez says that Freeman has a left flexor strain and will undergo an MRI back in D.C. on Friday. That is the same injury that has Roenis ElÃas on the 60-day injured list. Freeman had Tommy John surgery in 2010.
"At this point I can't assume anything," Martinez said. "This is what they were told. We do know in 2010 he had Tommy John. For him, it's a level of concern."
With Freeman out, there is a possibility that Seth Romero could be added to the 40-man roster. The left-hander from Houston is a 2017 first-round selection who missed all of last season rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. Romero, 24, is on the taxi squad in New York with the team. Martinez said he will talk to general manager Mike Rizzo tonight to decide what the next step will be. If the Nationals activate Romero, they would need to make another move. Right-hander Will Harris is likely to be activated for Thursday's afternoon series finale.
"We'll have to sit down," Martinez said. "I'm going to talk to Mike, probably after we're done here, and talk and see what the game plan is moving forward. I really think we've got to keep getting (Sean) Doolittle right. And then we'll see what happens. I like the way Seth has been throwing the baseball. He threw the other day and he threw really well. Maybe he does get an opportunity. But that's something I'm going to sit with Mike Rizzo about and see what we come up with."
Center fielder Victor Robles got hit by a pitch for the third time in the series, but this time the pitch appeared to hit him on his right hand. He left the game in seventh inning, replaced by Michael A. Taylor. X-rays on Robles' hand were negative. He is day-to-day.
"It got stiff on him," Martinez said of Robles' hand. "Had x-rays, he's negative. So, he's going to be day-to-day, see how he feels tomorrow. He got hit pretty good right on a knuckle."
Soto crushed a jaw-dropping three-run shot onto the third deck walkway at Citi Field in the top of the first, and it looked like the Nats were well on their way to their third straight win.
SÃ¡nchez recorded two outs in a row before hitting Michael Conforto on the leg. Pete Alonso's RBI double cut the lead to 3-2. Dominic Smith then laced a run-scoring double to tie the game. AndrÃ©s GimÃ©nez's single scored Smith to put the Mets in the lead for the first time in the series, 4-3.
In the third, the Mets added another run off SÃ¡nchez to make it 5-3, thanks to a pair of walks and an RBI single by Wilson Ramos. SÃ¡nchez ended up allowing five runs and recording only eight outs.
Soto went 3-for-4, with two home runs and four RBIs, and is now hitting .423.
The first homer, off Mets starter Robert Gsellman, traveled 466 feet, making it the fifth longest blast in Nats history, according to Statcast. The ball was hit so high it landed on the third-level walkway in right field. Soto's third homer of the season was his second of the series. The first one Monday night traveled 463 feet to deep center field.
In the sixth, Soto did it again. A solo homer to left field off of left-hander Justin Wilson cut the Mets' advantage to 5-4. He now has four homers on the season, and it marked his sixth career multi-homer game.
Soto is thrilled to be able to continue to hit well, but he said it doesn't feel as good if the Nats end up losing the game.
"It's really tough," Soto said on his postgame Zoom video call. "At the end of the day, the goal is win the games. No matter how much you made (happen), if you don't win the game it just feels bad. But I think we have been trying really good. It's just one of those days. We got to take it, forget about it and go for the next day."
For one of the rare times this season, the Nats bullpen was unable to keep the score close.
The Mets scored five runs in the bottom of the sixth on a two-run double by Conforto, a two-run homer by Alonso and a solo shot by Smith off of Ryne Harper. The right-hander struggled to throw strikes, walking the first batter he faced.
"He's not a guy that walks very many people," Martinez said. "He throws a lot of strikes. We liked his curveball on all these guys. He's got a really good curveball. He's typically 60 to 65 percent. But when you're falling behind on everybody, that becomes an issue. We got to get him right. I've seen him really good. We got him here. He can help us. I know he can help us. He's done well. We just got to get him back in that strike zone and throwing strike one."
Starlin Castro launched a solo shot in the eighth, his second homer of the season. Kurt Suzuki hit his first home run of the season, a solo in the ninth, off reliever Brad Brach. But with the Mets enjoying two big innings, the Nats were unable to make it close in the end.
SÃ¡nchez knows his focus the next five days will be to try to figure out what is going wrong. He has now allowed 14 runs in his first three starts of 2020.
"I don't know, exactly, the answer," SÃ¡nchez said on his postgame Zoom video call. "I don't have it right now. I just know that I have to work better when I'm on the mound. Something I have to figure out. It's frustrating when you working hard and there is another (loss). But it's no end of the season either, and I need to prepare better for my next outing."