Kruk and Kuip: Sanchez heroics not possible without Kieschnick
WASHINGTON – The standings tell you this is a lost season for the Giants. It’s been one of those years for Hector Sanchez, too.
A shoulder injury knocked him to the disabled list and back to the minors. During his scant time in the big leagues, opposing runners ran wild and opposing pitchers turned him around.
But the dustbin usually does not include two-out, two-strike, go-ahead three-run pinch home runs in the ninth inning.
Sanchez found a second life after taking a close, 2-2 fastball near the top of the strike zone. Nationals closer Rafael Soriano obliged with another, and Sanchez crushed it just inside the right field pole to give the Giants a 4-3 victory at Nationals Park.
Sanchez said one of the goals he set for himself was to be a more patient hitter. The shoulder injury disrupted many of those goals – just as so many injuries, inconsistencies and bad bounces knocked a defending champion into last place.
But Sanchez’s shoulder is finally feeling better. And there is meaning left in this season – for him, and maybe for the team.
“When the season is over, then I’ll turn the page and say, `Hey, next season is coming,’” Sanchez said. “But we are still playing. Absolutely anything can happen.”
Odds are, Sanchez’s shot did little more than make for a merrier flight to Miami and provide a temporary high for a team that was one strike away from getting swept in a road series for the seventh time this season.
But the home run, and the pinch single from a night earlier, could have a lingering effect for Sanchez, a 23-year-old switch hitter whose switch-hitting ability and catching tools still excite the organization.
“This kid’s got a chance to be a really good major league catcher,” said Bochy, who plans to start Sanchez once in the series at Miami. “He’s got arm strength and he’s a dangerous hitter. He’s receiving the ball well and he’s thrown well when he’s healthy.
“He was ahead of the game when we brought him up, and now he looks like he’s where he was.”
Sanchez has dealt with the shoulder issue since last winter, when he injured it while playing for Magallanes in Venezuela. He said he’s not sure if he’ll play winter ball again, and if he does, he’ll limit himself to DH.
Bochy also lauded the way Sanchez received Tim Lincecum last week when the right-hander limited the Brewers to one hit in eight shutout innings. And yes, the player that some fans like to deride as “Hacktor” has shown an ability to work deeper counts since he arrived back from Fresno.
He almost got rung up on the pitch prior to the home run, though. Soriano squawked that the high fastball was a strike. Sanchez acknowledged it was close enough that he expected plate umpire Jim Joyce to punch him out.
“Close, you know?” Sanchez said, smiling. “I thought he got me.”
Said Bochy: “It doesn’t get any bigger than that. The way things were going, you hope it doesn’t hook on you. The boys needed this. Good for them. It saved a little sanity around here.”