Giants starter sets franchise mark for lefties with 11 strikeouts
By Chris Haft / MLB.com
ATLANTA -- When Jonathan Sanchez last set foot at Turner Field, he made a remark that landed him in some trouble.
On Sunday, Sanchez issued another statement. This time he did it with his wondrous left arm instead of his mouth, and the Atlanta Braves were the ones in peril.
Sanchez didn't receive the decision in the Giants' 3-2 victory over the Atlanta Braves in Game 3 of the National League Division Series. But San Francisco wouldn't have won without him.
Having appeared in a succession of increasingly pressurized games in the season's second half, Sanchez met the challenge of his first postseason appearance handsomely. He struck out 11 batters, establishing a postseason single-game franchise mark for strikeouts by a left-hander. The 27-year-old eclipsed the record of 10 established by Hall of Famer Carl Hubbell in Game 1 of the World Series on Oct. 3, 1933.
Sanchez no-hit Atlanta for 5 1/3 innings -- opposing pitcher Tim Hudson ended any Roy Halladay-type notions by singling cleanly to right field -- and took a one-hit shutout into the eighth inning. Sanchez ultimately left the game after 7 1/3 innings, with only two hits and a walk marring his ledger.
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"I was just being aggressive," said Sanchez, who was 4-1 with a 1.03 ERA in his final seven regular-season starts. "I tried to throw the first pitch for strikes and use my breaking balls."
It was here on Aug. 8 that Sanchez verbally tweaked the noses of the San Diego Padres, then the NL West leaders whom the Giants would face the following weekend.
"We're going to play San Diego now and we're going to beat them three times," said Sanchez, who had just surrendered four runs in four innings in a 6-3 loss to the Braves. "If we get to first place, we're not going to look back."
Sanchez's boldness could have sparked controversy, but the war of words didn't escalate. Atlanta's bats produced similar silence, contrasting with the sellout crowd's exhortations.
Sanchez capitalized on his curveball and the late-afternoon shadows to record at least one strikeout in each of the first seven innings.
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"He's hard enough to pick up in broad daylight or under the lights," catcher Buster Posey said of Sanchez, whose opponents' batting average of .204 was the best in the Major Leagues during the regular season. "So when you mix the shadows in, it's going to be tough on anybody. He had as good a curveball going today as I've seen."
Until Hudson singled, the closest semblances to a hit were drives to right field by Matt Diaz and Rick Ankiel leading off the fifth and sixth innings, respectively. Cody Ross caught both a couple of steps in front of the warning track.
Sanchez sustained the Division Series excellence of San Francisco's starters, who have permitted two runs (one earned) in 23 innings. That's an ERA of 0.39.
"Do you expect anything less? They've been outstanding all year," Posey said. "They just keep pounding the zone and letting the defense work behind them."
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.