The Marlins finished the weekend with a poor showing against the Washington Nationals but still managed to take two of three games despite the final game’s rough pitching outing. The Fish delivered those victories in typical close-game fashion, combining a strong pitching performance in the second game with some late-game heroics in the third game in order to steal two one-run games away.
Anibal impressive again
Following his atrocious performance versus the St. Louis Cardinals at the beginning of the month, Sanchez has been on an absolute tear, particularly versus the Nationals. In two starts against the Nats since that May 3 disaster, Sanchez has thrown 17 innings and struck out 20 batters, walking only two along the way. Last time out, he almost threw a no-hitter, losing the feat in the ninth with two hits allowed. This time around, he pitched a shutout, striking out nine in eight innings while walking two and giving up three hits.
Contrast this strike zone approach comapred to the one we saw in his previous start versus Washington. This time he was much more out of the zone than in his previous start, throwing just 69 of 114 pitches in the generic strike zone shown above. Still, that is a 60 percent rate that is not all that bad. In contrast to the previous start, Sanchez was working lower in the zone, which was reflected again in the ground ball rates we saw from him. Sanchez posted ten ground balls in 18 balls in play, a 59 percent mark. This result may have been due to to the prevalence of lefties in the lineup, as these lefties forced Sanchez to go to his changeup more often. His game versus lefties is more conducive to inducing grounders, and even though his changeup itself only forced one ground ball, it’s no surprise that the lefty-heavy lineup was beating the ball in the dirt. Overall, Sanchez has induced grounders on 55.6 percent of his lefty balls in play.
Omar Infante is magic
There were two plays in the first game of the series that should convince you of this fact. One was an impressive double play orchestrated by Infante, Hanley Ramirez, and Gaby Sanchez. That play occurred in the seventh inning of a tied ballgame, with the Marlins having allowed a leadoff pinch-hit single to Matt Stairs. The Leverage Index (LI) at the time of the play was 2.3, meaning the plate appearance was about 2.3 times more important than the average PA. The Marlins made two excellent defensive maneuvers in one swoop: Ramirez snagged the hard grounder up the middle and flipped it to Infante from his knees, then Infante bare-handed the ball and sent it to first in a smooth motion to a reaching Gaby Sanchez for the second out. That play actually stole back 0.122 WPA from the Nationals, who were at a 64.2 percent chance of winning the game prior to the play.
The second maneuver was, of course, this amazing slide that was a highlight play among an evening of highlight plays (don’t forget this “Catch of the Year” candidate by Roger Bernadina earlier in that same game). Infante was coming home late on his slide off a Greg Dobbs double, with Danny Espinosa‘s relay throw sure to beat him to the plate. The head-first slide by Infante actually slowed down his arrival at the plate, which fooled catcher Wilson Ramos. Ramos went to apply the tag, but Infante moved his left hand into the air to avoid the tag and reached back towards the plate, getting his magic fingers to barely graze the plate. The whole play was worth 0.358 WPA, all of which officially credited to Greg Dobbs. Clearly, however, a good deal of the magic of that (eventual) game-winning play came from the amazing slide maneuver by Infante, and it lit up Marlins fans everywhere, including those in the Marlin Maniac Live Chat.
Infante officially ended the night with 0.014 WPA, but you have to feel that he deserved a good deal of credit for these two high-impact plays.