With a victory today, the Washington Nationals can win their first series since mid-April. Anibal Sanchez needs to pitch well to make that happen.
The Washington Nationals defeated the New York Mets last night in a relatively routine fashion.
Patrick Corbin was sensational, throwing eight innings of one-run ball and striking out 11 Mets.
To take two out of three from the Mets and win the series, Anibal Sanchez needs to pitch well. In general, if the Nats want to make a run at the postseason, Sanchez needs to revert to his 2018 self.
However, over the last month, Sanchez is struggling mightily.
Over his last five starts, Sanchez’s longest outing, in terms of innings pitched, is 5.1 innings on April 19. In his previous two starts, Sanchez failed to make it out of the fifth inning.
In the last month, Sanchez did make one start in Coors Field, which is his worst start to date. That start is excusable due to the awful pitching environment. However, he’s thrown in a few more clunkers to go along with it.
His worst outing (excluding Coors Field) was his last start against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
It was his second-shortest outing in terms of innings pitched (4.1 IP). He surrendered three earned runs, two of which were solo shots courtesy of Joc Pederson. He allowed six hits total and walked two batters.
The Nats desperately need the Sanchez of 2018 back. Unfortunately, there are some signs that his form might not return.
While Sanchez’s strikeout rate is about where it was last year, he has nearly doubled his walks per nine innings rate.
Sanchez is also inducing fewer ground balls. His 2019 ground ball percentage of 31.5% is far behind his 2018 mark of 45%.
Additionally, Sanchez’s soft contact rate has decreased by more than six percent from 2018 to 2019.
When we crunch all of those stats and see that it spits out a 5.27 ERA and a 4.86 fielding independent pitching (FIP) mark, it means bad news for the Nats as a whole.
If the Nats have to use their bullpen for four innings in relief of both Sanchez and Jeremy Hellickson, things will only continue spiraling out of control.
Losses and fatigue will pile up in the dog days of summer. When and if that happens, the Nats could have one of their worst seasons in franchise history.
With a big game today at 1:05 ET, Sanchez needs to prove to the team that he still has some juice left in his tank. It cannot wait; he needs to pitch well now.