Pirates' Sanchez rocked in loss to Diamondbacks
PHOENIX — As good as the Pirates' pitching staff has looked at times this season, there is one disturbing trend. The rotation has produced only two quality starts, which ranks next-to-last in the National League.
A quality start is when a pitcher goes at least six innings and allows three or fewer runs. Those outings are invaluable because they keep the team in the game and prevent bullpen burnout.
There was nothing quality about Jonathan Sanchez's start Wednesday in a 10-2 loss against the Arizona Diamondbacks. The left-hander lasted only 31⁄3 innings and yielded nine runs and eight hits. Sanchez (0-2) walked two batters and hit another with a pitch.
“I didn't make quality pitches,” Sanchez said. “We tried the slider, but it wasn't playing. I was missing with my fastball on the corners. I just got hit. I've got to forget this and move forward.”
Perhaps, but to where? Sanchez made the rotation out of spring training in large part because Jeff Karstens went down with a sore shoulder. After putting up a 12.96 ERA in two starts, Sanchez might end up in the minors or released when either Karstens or Francisco Liriano (broken arm) is ready to rejoin the team in May.
Arizona went into the game with a .121 batting average against left-handers, second lowest in the NL. The worst mark belongs to the Pirates (.082), who got five hits in 62⁄3 innings off Diamondbacks left-hander Wade Miley (2-0).
The Diamondbacks scored three runs apiece in the first and second innings. Sanchez got ahead 0-2 on four of the first eight batters he faced but three of them reached base, produced runs and drove up his pitch count.
“The stuff wasn't sharp, which was the first red flag,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “The second one was his inability to command the fastball in, which allowed their hitters to get very comfortable at the plate.”
In the first inning, A.J. Pollock doubled after falling behind 0-2. Sanchez had Pollock picked off between second and third but threw the ball away. Pollock scored.
“I didn't set my feet,” Sanchez said. “I wanted to get it there fast, but I threw it away. It happens.”
Later in the inning, Alfredo Marte trailed 0-2, but Sanchez then missed with three straight sliders. Marte lined a sinker into center field for an RBI double to give Arizona a 3-0 lead.
Josh Wilson was behind 0-2 when leading off the second inning. The at-bat wound up lasting 10 pitches, with Wilson drawing a walk. He scored on Pollock's three-run homer.
Sanchez retired the Diamondbacks in order in the third, then went off a cliff in the fourth.
Pollock hit a solo shot to left for his first career multi-homer game. With one out, after Paul Goldschmidt walked and Miguel Montero singled, right-hander Chris Leroux relieved Sanchez.
Marte walked on five pitches, Cliff Pennington walked on four. Josh Wilson (Mt. Lebanon) walked on four pitches, scoring Montero. Of Leroux's first 15 pitches, 14 were balls.
“He wasn't repeating his delivery,” Hurdle said. “There's always that conversation, is it mechanics or thoughts? He showed some improvement his last couple of innings.”
When Leroux's third offering to Miley was called a strike, the crowd of 17,769 at Chase Field erupted in a loud mock cheer. Miley eventually grounded out and drove in the Diamondbacks' final run.
Rob Biertempfel is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.
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