Sanchez teases no-hitter as Nationals beat Cardinals in NLCS Game 1

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The Washington Nationals secured a Game 1 win against the St Louis Cardinals thanks to a virtuoso pitching performance from Anibal Sanchez.
The Washington Nationals secured a Game 1 win against the St Louis Cardinals thanks to a virtuoso pitching performance from Anibal Sanchez.

Anibal Sanchez threatened to earn a slice of history as the Washington Nationals beat the St Louis Cardinals 2-0 in Game 1 of the National League Championship Series on Friday.

The Nationals starter tossed 7 2/3 no-hitting innings and came within four outs of recording the third no-hitter in postseason history.

It was not meant to be as Jose Martinez singled to center to break up the no-hit bid, but it was the exact start the Nationals needed to go up 1-0 in the series.

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Washington upset the Los Angeles Dodgers to reach the NLCS for the first time in their history and will now send Max Scherzer to the mound for Game 2 on Saturday.

 

Three takeaways from the Nationals' win over the Cardinals in NLCS Game 1

Anibal Sanchez gave the Nationals what they needed

When thinking about particular pitching matchups in the NLCS, Cardinals fans likely circled Sanchez's name.

The 35-year-old is the one pitcher in the Nationals rotation that can be looked at as a potential weak link. Add the fact Daniel Hudson was on paternity leave for Game 1 and this felt like a chance for St Louis to both get a win and even possibly give the Nationals' bullpen some hell without one of their better relievers back there.

But Sanchez is a wily vet and the perfect example of experience in the postseason. Pitchers like CC Sabathia and Adam Wainwright on paper seem like guys who should be vulnerable in a big spot at an older age, but in actuality, they use their experience to make things happen and get big outs.

Sanchez did that and then some before handing the ball off to Sean Doolittle in the eighth inning.

Andrew Miller vs. the three-batter minimum

Baseball is all about matchups. A good pitching staff against a great lineup, a big-time closer against the heart of the order and a LOOGY against a dominant left-handed bat. These matchups are what make the game great as any one of them can determine the outcome of a game.

In Game 1 of the NLCS, Andrew Miller came in to get one batter out. He was called upon to get left-haded hitting 20-year-old Juan Soto out. What happened next was an intense battle that went to a full count and resulted in Miller giving Soto his absolute best slider and sitting him down on strikes.

But after this year, this will not happen ever again because MLB has instituted a three-batter minimum. No more will be the days of the LOOGY and Miller will never get the chance to take on Soto in a high-intensity at-bat in a critical moment. Baseball is the worse for it.

Yan Gomes trade: Worth it

When the Nationals acquired Yan Gomes for two prospects in the offseason the storyline was more focused on the Cleveland Indians getting rid of payroll than it was on Washington getting a solid player, but Game 1 reminded us that Gomes is not just a trade piece, he is an All-Star, a Silver Slugger, and a solid defensive catcher.

While Gomes was not great in his first season with the Nationals, he was thrust into a starting role after Kurt Suzuki was hit by a pitch on the hand and helmet in Game 5 of the NLDS.

Gomes made the most of it, going 2 for 3 with a walk and drove in the first run of the game on a double in the second inning.

If the Nationals are to go on to win this series, that is a big moment for the team. Gomes got them going and made an impact when it mattered even if he had his struggles. Often, success in the postseason can make people forget a player at his worst. Pablo Sandoval got a massive contract almost solely off playoff success.

Gomes made an impact when the Nationals needed him to. So for at least one night, acquiring him was completely worth it.

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