Right-hander Aníbal Sánchez appeared to be well on his way to his first victory with the Nationals until the fourth inning Tuesday night. The Cardinals scored three runs on three hits with the benefit of two walks in that frame. That was all they would need as they erased an early 2-0 deficit to come back and beat the Nats 3-2.
Sánchez worked five innings, allowing three runs on five hits with two walks and a season-high seven strikeouts. He threw 94 pitches, 60 for strikes, striking out two batters in each of the first three innings.
With the Nats enjoying a 2-0 lead, those two walks issued in the crucial Cardinals rally in the fourth proved to be difference makers.
With one out, Paul DeJong earned a walk on a close call with the count full. Sánchez was able to get Marcell Ozuna to hit a liner to second base for the second out, and hoped he had a good chance of getting out of the inning unscathed.
But then José Martínez singled to left field and Yadier Molina walked to load the bases. Kolten Wong then laid down a perfect bunt up the third base line fair in front of Wilmer Difo. DeJong scored and Wong was safe with an RBI bunt single.
“I think for DeJong, the last pitch was there, borderline,” Sánchez said. ” All I can say is good call, ball or strike? I can’t control that part. With Molina, I know he is a really good hitter. I don’t want him to score in that inning. I got two runs from the team and I just wanted to go back to the dugout with no runs, and if I had it would be a different game.”
Sánchez admitted the bunt single from Wong was one of the better plays he had seen and there was very little he could do to stop it.
“(The bunt was) really (a) surprise, and at the end this guy is the perfect guy to do that,” Sánchez said. “Really good bunt and he’s got great speed, so there’s nothing you can do with the ball on the line like that and first pitch. For me, it was a really good play.”
Harrison Bader then gave the Cards the lead for good with a two-run single to center field.
Nationals manager Davey Martinez said Sánchez did his best to give his club a chance to win it. The lineup just was again unable to put together more than one rally.
“He was good,” Martinez said. “He pitched good enough to win. He kept us in the ballgame, the bullpen came in and did a great job again. We just didn’t get production from the back of our lineup.”
So even though Sánchez is now 0-4 in six starts for the Nats, he believes he had some good things happen in this start, especially with what he felt from his fastball.
“Yeah, definitely. I feel really good out there tonight,” Sánchez said. “My fastball got better life today than the outing before, and I tried to attack the guys, be ahead. I know I had a couple of situations where I was really behind 3-0 and back to strike them out. So that’s good, but for the pitch count it’s not enough. (In) the end it’s just one inning, one inning that I can’t hold for two outs, that cost the game.”
As for the big picture, Sánchez said there is no panic in the clubhouse even though the team is now 12-16. He believes that injured veterans Trea Turner, Anthony Rendon and Ryan Zimmerman will come back soon and give the lineup a boost.
“Team-wise I think we early,” Sánchez said of the season. “It’s April, and I know a lot can happen. We know the situation that everyone is picked. Definitely we way early in the season. Those guys will probably be back in two weeks in the middle of May, a lot of season to go.
“Personally, I think we are going to turn around everything sooner. We showed that in spring training. Sooner we can do different games. I trust in my team and I trust in myself. We can start a good month in May.”