ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Jonathan Sanchez is lights-out when he’s on — take his no-hitter against the Padres in July 2009 — or jittery and way off when he’s not.
Saturday was one of those rough days.
The lefty allowed two home runs in Game 3 of the World Series against the Texas Rangers, who won 4-2. The Giants lead the best-of-seven series 2-1 and will send rookie Madison Bumgarner to the mound Sunday night in Game 4 at Rangers Ballpark.
“I’m not happy. You want to win always, but obviously that didn’t happen,” Sanchez said.
Leading up to this outing, all Sanchez wanted to do was move forward from his flop in the NL championship series clincher a week earlier. He was done after two-plus innings — and after contributing to the benches clearing in the third inning. Sanchez plunked Chase Utley and then yelled at the All-Star second baseman for tossing the ball back toward the mound on his way to first base. No punches were thrown and nobody was ejected, though Sanchez was pulled after facing only 12 batters.
The Giants went on to win 3-2, using five other pitchers to do so.
On Saturday, Sanchez lasted a little longer but not much. He was tagged for four runs and six hits in 4 2-3 innings. He struck out three and walked three, trailing 4-0 when he gave way to Guillermo Mota. Rookie and No. 9 hitter Mitch Moreland hit a three-run homer in the second and Josh Hamilton a solo drive in the fifth for his first clout of the Series. Sanchez’s postseason ERA jumped from 2.93 to 4.05.
He insists he felt great, though the result hardly showed it.
“I felt comfortable,” Sanchez said.
His fastball velocity is down from a usual 92-93 mph to around 89. That after pitching a career-high 193 1-3 innings in 2010. Sanchez says his arm feels fine and there’s no fatigue. He was well rested with a week off.
“These guys have logged some work, some innings, and whether that’s caught up with them or not, I can’t answer that,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “I thought he battled well. After the home run he regrouped and he kept them there until the one mistake to Hamilton. But I’m sure they’re all a little tired now. It’s been a long year, and I thought the middle innings there he had better command of all his pitches.”
Sanchez didn’t get much help in this one, either. After the Giants combined to score 20 runs in the first two games in their home ballpark, they didn’t score any runs when Sanchez was on the mound. They later got to Colby Lewis with a pair of solo homers in the Rangers’ first ever World Series game at home.
The 27-year-old Sanchez, a 13-game winner this year, has been waiting for years to pitch in important games and on the biggest stage. He spent the 2006 and ’07 seasons primarily in the bullpen before getting his shot at a regular starting job the next season.
Sanchez became San Francisco’s go-to pitcher down the stretch this year. He was the most reliable starter and a big reason the Giants returned to the playoffs for the first time in seven years. Bochy repeatedly praised him.
It was Sanchez who on the final day of the 2010 regular season pitched the Giants past the San Diego Padres to clinch the NL West — in their third try at capturing the club’s first division crown and playoff berth since 2003.
He was 4-1 with a 1.03 ERA over his last seven regular-season outings.
“I’m the same one,” he said of feeling as strong as at the end of the regular season. “I’m all good.”
After Bochy went with ace Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and Sanchez in that order for the NL division series against Atlanta, Bochy swapped Cain and Sanchez in the NLCS to pitch Sanchez in Game 2. Bochy said he did it to split up the righties — Lincecum and Cain — and lefties.
The skipper returned to the original rotation for the World Series. But Sanchez couldn’t follow the two strong outings by his teammates, and let the Rangers right back in it.
“I thought he looked good,” said Pablo Sandoval, the designated hitter Saturday. “You can’t win all your games. He’s trying to work hard to help the team win.”