Sanchez perfect in debut
TORONTO—Aaron Sanchez didn’t know which Boston Red Sox hitters he’d be facing—and he didn’t know the score.
Making his major-league debut against Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz, and Mike Napoli protecting a one-run lead, the Toronto Blue Jays’ top prospect just tried to pretend no one was in the batter’s box.
With 35,696 fans watching, Sanchez did just about the best he could do—working two perfect innings to help preserve Toronto’s 6-4 victory over the Red Sox last night at Rogers Centre.
“To be in that kind of ball game, that’s what you dream of when you get to the big leagues,” the 22-year-old remarked.
“Maybe not your first one but I’m here to help the team win.”
On his second day in the majors, Sanchez debated asking bullpen catcher Alex Andreopoulos who he’d be facing.
Once he finally did, Andreopoulos told him it didn’t matter.
Sanchez—considered one of the top young arms in baseball—used a mix of a fastball that topped out at 99 m.p.h. and an effective curveball to get Pedroia, Ortiz, and Napoli to each fly out.
Starter R.A. Dickey (8-10), who got the win by allowing four runs in six innings, watched from the clubhouse and came away impressed with how Sanchez dealt with the pressure.
“He’s coming in against the 2-3-4 hitters of the Boston Red Sox with a two-run lead as a 22-year-old young man,” Dickey noted.
“I thought he handled himself with great poise and hopefully that’s a microcosm of what he’s going to become.”
When Jose Bautista added to his impressive night with a solo homer in the bottom of the seventh, Sanchez did a little fist pump in the dugout knowing he had just a little more breathing room to work with.
He didn’t need it.
Sanchez caught Daniel Nava looking for his first major-league strikeout, got Xander Bogaerts to ground out, and then struck out Stephen Drew to make it through his second inning perfect.
Of his 25 pitches, 16 were strikes.
“You see different guys over the years and young kids that come up, they can look a little rattled,” said Jays’ manager John Gibbons.
“But he look like he belonged.”
On the mound, Sanchez tried to calm his nerves, remembering what his ‘AAA’ debut was like. He managed to keep from thinking about the moment until after his outing was done.
“I think at the end when ‘Gibby’ told me that I was done and he gave me a big smile and he said, ‘It’s OK to smile,’ I think that’s when kind of everything hit me that I’d just pitched in the big leagues for the first time,” Sanchez said.
The Jays (53-49) are sure glad he did. Barring a complete game or close to it by Dickey, Gibbons knew Sanchez was going to pitch last night because of how beaten up the bullpen was.
When Dickey gave up a three-run home run to Ortiz in the first before even recording an out, it looked like it could be a long night for the knuckleballer.
Instead, the Jays tied the score in the bottom of the inning and settled down.
“The better thing was the way the team responded after falling behind 3-0,” Gibbons reasoned.
“That’s key,” he stressed. “They throw up a goose egg there, the emotions of the game, you don’t know where it goes from there.
“Of course, we turn around and score, it evens things out again.”
Dickey kept the Red Sox (47-54) off the board until Nava and Bogaerts hit back-to-back doubles in the fifth to make it 4-3.
But in the sixth, a triple by second baseman Ryan Goins tied it. Then an error by Bogaerts at third on what would have been an inning-ending groundout by Reyes gave the Jays the lead.