Given his unpredictable command and erratic performances over the past few seasons, it's a wonder Jonathan Sanchez even found a landing spot with a major league team this season. I guess it's true when people suggest that left-handers who can throw in the low-to-mid 90s will rarely run out of chances, because Sanchez has had plenty.
Regardless, he was on the hill for the Pittsburgh Pirates on Friday night and ran into some immediate trouble against the St. Louis Cardinals. First, lead-off hitter Matt Carpenter took him deep. Next, veteran switch-hitter Carlos Beltran delivered a homer of his own — the first of two, one from each side of the plate. And then, third batter Matt Holliday laced a single to keep the line moving.
That brought up Allen Craig, and on the very first pitch, Sanchez drilled him on the shoulder. It drilled him good, too, at 92 mph. Thankfully, it didn't catch Craig a little higher, or it could have been a scarier scene like what we saw with Didi Gregorius in Arizona.
In that case, it was clear Rockies left-hander Josh Outman had a ball get away from him. Given the circumstances and the reputation that proceeds Sanchez, it's a little more difficult to decipher what exactly was going through his mind. At least for me. For home plate umpire Tim Timmons, it was an easy call because he didn't hesitate to eject him.
Here's Timmons' explanation, courtesy of the Associated Press:
''You got two home runs and then you got a line drive single up the middle,'' Timmons said to a pool reporter. ''Then the very first pitch (to Craig) is up around the shoulder and head area. In that area, I deemed that intentional, and he's done. Very dangerous.''
Manager Clint Hurdle quickly followed Sanchez to the clubhouse. His argument was obvious, and perhaps even correct.
''Timmons thought he was throwing at his head and we disagreed,'' Hurdle said. ''You guys are going to have to figure out your own thoughts and speculate. I'm sure you already have. My comments will be made to the people that got an ear that need to hear."
The commissioner's office heard the argument from Hurdle and officially sided with Timmons by announcing a six-game suspension for Sanchez on Saturday. He'll also be fined an undisclosed amount.
Again, I wouldn't be comfortable declaring what Sanchez's intentions were with that pitch one way or the other. The general feeling seems to be that he was head-hunting, but it could have been an honest attempt from an incapable pitcher to get the Cardinals off the plate a bit.
It's also worth mentioning that later in the game Pirates outfielder Sterling Marte was hit not once, but twice by Cardinals starter Lance Lynn without punishment. Later, Redbird reliever Mitchell Boggs also plunked Gaby Sanchez. Obviously those were all judgment calls for Timmons to make, but one can see why Pittsburgh might be angry over perceived inconsistencies.
For now, Sanchez will appeal the suspension. He may even get a game knocked off, but one has to think Pittsburgh would be better served looking for a more stable option to anchor their starting rotation.
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