Anibal Sanchez was four outs away from history in the Nationals' 2-0 National League Championship Series Game 1 win over the Cardinals on Friday.
The Nationals starter tossed 7 2/3 no-hit innings and was four outs away from just the third no-hitter in postseason history (Roy Halladay, Don Larsen).
It wasn't 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.
"I think (Yan) Gomes and I had a real good game plan and I tried to stay focused on that," Sanchez said after the game. "I didn't want to think about the no-hitter, I wanted to more (think about) just keeping the score there and just keep the score 2-0."
He did just that and now the Nationals send Max Scherzer to the mound for Game 2 on Saturday.
Not a bad way to follow up a no-hit bid.
Three takeaways from Nationals' nearly historic NLCS Game 1 win over Cardinals
Anibal Sanchez gave Nationals what they needed
When thinking about particular pitching matchups in the NLCS, Cardinals fans likely had one name circled: Anibal Sanchez. The 35-year-old is the one pitcher in the Nationals rotation that you can look at and say, "St. Louis should get a win in this game." And when you add the fact that Daniel Hudson was on paternity leave for Game 1, this felt like a chance 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. Guys 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 tossing 7 2/3 no-hit innings in the game before handing the ball off to Doolittle in the eighth. Sanchez was by no means a pushover and very well could have delivered the Nationals' best start of the NLCS. No matter the age of the pitcher, nothing can be taken for granted in the postseason and Sanchez drove that point home with authority in Game 1.
Andrew Miller vs. the three-batter minimum
Baseball is all about matchups. A good pitching staff vs. a great lineup, a big-time closer vs. 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. But next year there could be a lot lower use of LOOGY's, and honestly, we're disappointed.
In Game 1 of the NLCS on Friday, Andrew Miller came in to get one batter out. He was called upon to get left-handed 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. It's what makes baseball great. Here is my best pitch, let's see if you can hit it.
Andrew Miller, Nasty 83mph Slider (release/spin axis). pic.twitter.com/vCys3tuxAZ
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) October 12, 2019
But after this year, this will rarely happen ever again because MLB has instituted a three-batter minimum (with the exception of injury or ending an inning). Rarely will we the LOOGY and Miller will rarely get the chance to take on Soto in a high-intensity at-bat in a critical moment. And that stinks. We understand why MLB did it as Dave Roberts had a tendency to use all 13 of his pitchers by the seventh inning and playoff games were turning into 18-inning snoozers, but it's not great that we will see less at-bats like the one in Game 1 again.
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 Indians getting rid of payroll that it was 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. And 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.
— MLB (@MLB) October 12, 2019
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. And really, a lot of times success in the postseason can make people forget a player at his worst. Pablo Sandoval got a massive contract almost solely off of playoff success. Gomes made an impact when the Nationals needed him to. So for at least one night, acquiring him in the offseason was completely worth it.