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Thursday, May 5, 2011

'The enigma that is Jonathan Sanchez resurfaces'

Maybe we'll all look back and laugh at ourselves for being so foolish for being driven mad by Jonathan Sanchez. Perhaps, he'll go on to a successful career with stellar numbers and fingers filled with championship rings, and we'll have forgotten all the land mines he took us through.

But right now, a whole lot of folks would like one minute with the beguiling lefty to drop a few f-bombs and what-the-hell-are-you-thinkings on him, if not a few smacks upside the head.

Twitterville was blaring loudly in reaction to Sanchez' performance Thursday, in which he gave up five runs on five hits with six walks and six strikeouts in the Giants' exasperating 5-2 loss to the Mets to end the road trip 5-5:
"Jonathan Sanchez' act is wearing thin right now," tweeted Extrabaggs, otherwise known as Andrew Baggerly of the Mercury News. "I am no longer filling out my scorebook. Just writing 'pitcher indifference' in block letters."
"I don't even think he deserves the 'enigma' status. Flat out bad," wrote KNBRmurph, the handle of radiocaster and ex-Chron sportswriter Brian Murphy. "Tell U what. Starting to burn out on Slingin' Jonny Sanchez. The vacant stare. The endless walks. The lack of focus. Snap out of it, bro."
And Resa81W: "Sanchez drives me crazy. I am so done with him."
If the Mets offered Jose Reyes for Sanchez straight up, Brian Sabean would not be blamed for jumping at the offer, whatever you may think about keeping the starting rotation intact. Heck, Barry Zito can turn in an outing like that.

Trouble is, Sanchez takes you to the point of exasperation and just when he's lost all hope, he pulls off a gem. Remember his no-hitter? He was pitching for his life. Calls to yank him from the rotation were resounding through Giant Land, and he was told he was gone unless he turned things around. He did, and wound up having a great season last year, though not without reverting to bad form from time to time (remember Philadelphia in October?).

That seems to be how Sanchez operates. It's as if he needs verbal broadsides to snap to attention. In his last start, Bochy gave him an earful after walking five and hit one batter through the first two innings, after which he gathered his focus in time to give his team three good innings en route to a win. Bochy again came down on him in full view of the cameras on Thursday after he failed to run out a bunt he thought was foul that turned into a double play.

He responded with two solid innings, and the Giants crept to within 3-2, thanks in part to an RBI single by Sanchez.

But, he seemed to lose his focus after the hit, as if he could relax for a job well done. How else do you explain the fastball right down the middle to Carlos Beltran in the bottom of the fifth with a runner on? Sanchez had retired Beltran twice earlier, the latter at bat on two beautiful curves that froze the switch-hitting power hitter. After finding it so difficult to get his fastball over, he entered the strike zone a bit too willingly on that one.

But the true scandal of Sanchez' start came in the Mets' three-run second inning. He'd done well to limit the Mets to one run after facing a first and third, no-out jam, inducing a double play ground ball. But then he walked No. 8 hitter Scott Hairston, who'd only had two hits in 15 at bats lifetime against Sanchez, on four pitches. And, the Cardinal Sin of all sins, walked the opposing pitcher, Michael Pelfrey.

"And the enigma that is Jonathan Sanchez resurfaces here," play-by-play Hall of Famer Jon Miller intoned.

And then, after falling behind 2-and-0, a fastball down the middle to Reyes for a two-run triple into the gap in left center field. Where was that fastball down the middle to Pelfrey or Hairston?

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