October 18, 2010
Jonathan Sanchez(notes) came into Game 2 of the NLCS with a 2-0 record and 1.38 ERA against the Philadelphia Phillies this season. That, along with the Phillies' desperate need to win this game, gave the San Francisco Giants plenty of reason to feel confident.
Sanchez began strong, mowing down Shane Victorino(notes) on three straight pitches. After that, however, his fastball couldn't find the strike zone and he walked Chase Utley(notes). Sanchez regained his control with off-speed pitches to Placido Polanco(notes), one of which resulted in a groundball to third base.
Unfortunately, Mike Fontenot's(notes) throw to first was wide of the bag, and two Phillies runners were on with one out. Sanchez then compounded the problem by walking Ryan Howard(notes) to load the bases.
After a visit from pitching coach Dave Righetti to calm him down, Sanchez came right back and struck out Jayson Werth(notes) on a nasty slider. But against Jimmy Rollins(notes), he threw nothing but fastballs and fell behind 3-1.
Sanchez's next pitch, however, appeared to hit the inside corner of the strike zone. Yet just as Darryl Cousins missed a crucial call on Roy Halladay(notes) the night before, home plate umpire Dan Iassogna called the pitch a ball for a run-scoring walk.
An error and a blown call might rattle many pitchers, especially on the road in a playoff game. But despite getting into trouble with his fastball against Rollins, Sanchez didn't throw anything off-speed to the next batter, Raul Ibanez(notes). Maybe a left-handed batter was exactly what Sanchez needed, but Ibanez couldn't handle the outside fastball and struck out.
Crisis averted. Only one run allowed. The Phillies missed a chance to blow the game open. Amazingly, Sanchez didn't allow a hit and struck out the side.
After looking like he might not last through the first inning, Sanchez went on to pitch six more, keeping his team in the ballgame. He gave up one more run on a Polanco sacrifice fly, but pulled himself together and pitched well enough to win. And on most nights, he probably would have.
But the real cost of Sanchez's wildness may have been taking him out of the game. When he left in the seventh inning after throwing 100 pitches, the Phillies had a 3-1 lead. The Giants' bullpen subsequently gave up three Phillies runs (plus a run from an inherited runner from Oswalt), putting the game out of reach.