NLCS Game 1: Aníbal Sánchez flirts with no-hitter as Nationals beat the Cardinals

Mark TownsendYahoo Sports Contributor

We suspected runs would be at a premium in the National League Championship Series. What we didn’t expect was Washington Nationals’ starter Aníbal Sánchez setting the tone in Game 1 by flirting with the third no-hitter in postseason history.

The 14-year MLB veteran carried his no-hit bid into the eighth inning before pinch-hitter Jose Martinez broke it up with a two-out single. Sánchez settled for 7 2/3 scoreless innings, which helped Washington to a 2-0 victory and a 1-0 series lead.

In taking his no-hit bid into the late innings, Sánchez became the first pitcher in MLB history with multiple postseason no-hit bids of at least six innings.

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Sánchez is the owner of one regular-season no-hitter. That occurred on Sept. 6, 2006, as a member of the then Florida Marlins. He would have joined Hall of Famer Roy Halladay as the only pitchers to throw no-hitters in the regular season and postseason.

The Nationals offense had its own struggles but did manage enough offense to secure the victory. Washington broke through against Cardinals’ starter Miles Mikolas with a single run in the second inning. NLDS Game 5 hero Howie Kendrick started the inning with a single and later scored on Yan Gomes’ two-out RBI double.

On another day, Mikolas would have been the story in Game 1. The Cardinals right-hander continued his strong postseason with six innings of one-run ball.

Washington added an insurance run in the seventh when that man again, Howie Kendrick, drove in Adam Eaton with a two-out single. Eaton had tripled earlier in the frame.

With closer Daniel Hudson away on paternity leave, former closer Sean Doolittle stepped up to record a four-out save. Doolittle set down the Cardinals first four hitters in order.

Washington Nationals starting pitcher Anibal Sanchez throws during the fifth inning of Game 1 of the baseball National League Championship Series against the St. Louis Cardinals Friday, Oct. 11, 2019, in St. Louis. (AP)
Washington Nationals starting pitcher Anibal Sanchez throws during the fifth inning of Game 1 of the baseball National League Championship Series against the St. Louis Cardinals Friday, Oct. 11, 2019, in St. Louis. (AP)

WHO MADE THE DIFFERENCE

• Aníbal Sánchez: No Max Scherzer in Game 1. No Stephen Strasburg. No Patrick Corbin. No problem. Sánchez took charge for Washington and immediately put St. Louis in a difficult position as their suddenly scuffling offense will have to get on track against Washington’s three aces. Good luck.

• Howie Kendrick: There’s clutch and then there’s Howie Kendrick in the 2019 postseason clutch. The veteran forever endeared himself to Nationals fans with his NLDS Game 5 grand slam, and he kept on rolling in NLCS Game 1 with a pair of hits that led directly to Washington’s first two runs.

• Yan Gomes: With Kurt Suzuki out of the lineup following a hit-by-pitch scare in NLDS Game 5, Gomes stepped in and provided a lift for Washington’s offense. The veteran catcher started the scoring with his RBI double and later added a single and a walk. He was also the man who helped guide Sánchez through his masterful performance.

MUST-SEE MOMENT

Had Sánchez completed the no-hitter, this diving catch by Ryan Zimmerman would have been one of the most talked about plays in postseason history.

It was still a very important play as it prevented the Cardinals from starting a rally.

WHAT THEY'LL BE TALKING ABOUT

Juan Soto’s pitch-take routine is an event all to itself.

It certainly got the attention of Miles Mikolas, who reciprocated with his own version.

WHAT'S NEXT

The Cardinals and Nationals will be right back at it Saturday afternoon. The first pitch for Game 2 is scheduled for 4:08 p.m. ET. The Cardinals will look to even the series with veteran Adam Wainwright on the hill. The 38-year-old right-hander shined in his lone NLDS appearance, holding the Braves scoreless over 7 2/3 innings in Game 3.

The Nationals will counter with Max Scherzer, who will be on normal rest for the first time in his last three appearances. He pitched seven innings of one-run ball in Washington's Game 4 win against Los Angeles.

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