BRAVES (44-32) AT NATIONALS (37-38)
7:15 p.m. ET; FOX, MLB.TV
Anibal Sanchez landed on the injured list due to a left hamstring strain last month.
However, that stretch from May 17-28 was not a waste for the veteran right-hander, who will start for the Washington Nationals on Saturday night against the visiting Atlanta Braves.
“The good part of that is he was able to throw during that time,” Nationals pitching coach Paul Menhart said Friday, sitting in the Washington dugout. “He made some adjustments to get in a better line (toward the plate).”
Sanchez (3-6, 3.84 ERA) will be opposed by Atlanta right-hander Mike Foltynewicz (2-5, 5.53).
The Nationals hurler is 3-0 with a 1.54 ERA in four starts since coming off the IL. He has 18 strikeouts and three walks in 23 1/3 innings during that span, with opponents hitting just .183 against him.
“Everything is working so far,” Sanchez said Friday. “I think I lost my command early in the season.
“I don’t know why. It had been 10 days before my first outing in the season (after spring training). I was giving up a lot of walks early in the season, and that has stopped.”
Sanchez, who pitched for the Braves last season, is 6-11 with a 4.71 ERA in 19 starts against Atlanta in his career.
His first start upon returning from the IL was against the Braves, and it was his best outing of the season. Sanchez tossed six scoreless innings of one-hit ball, striking out seven and walking one in a 14-4 victory. His last loss to the Braves was in 2012.
Foltynewicz is 5-4 with a 4.02 ERA in 11 career starts against Washington. Last season he was 3-2, 2.35 in five starts against the Nationals, and he hasn’t faced them this year.
Foltynewicz is coming off one of his better outings of the year, giving up one run on four hits over six innings in a 15-1 win against the Phillies. He did walk five batters, however.
In the series opener on Friday, the Nationals came back from a three-run deficit to win 4-3 as Victor Robles made a game-ending, diving catch on a liner by Dansby Swanson to seal Wander Suero‘s first career save.
Washington has won a season-high five in a row and is 18-7 since May 24.
Robles, who had a triple and was plunked by two pitches, has a hit in six games in a row. Second baseman Brian Dozier, who went 1-for-4, is hitting .321 with five doubles, five homers and 12 RBIs in 16 games this month.
Anthony Rendon, who drove in the go-ahead run in the fifth, is batting .309 with seven homers and 18 RBIs in June.
The Braves have still won 11 of their past 14.
The only Atlanta batter to manage two hits Friday, Josh Donaldson, remains part of the lineup after reportedly winning an appeal of a one-game suspension.
After he was hit by a pitch in the bottom of the first inning, Donaldson exchanged words with Musgrove on his way to first base. Donaldson approached the mound, then shoved Diaz when he tried to intervene. That prompted both benches and bullpens to empty, but no punches were exchanged. Donaldson and Musgrove were ejected.
However, ESPN reported Friday that Donaldson won the appeal of his suspension, and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution later confirmed the report.
Donaldson now has a 10-game hitting streak in which he is 17-for-41 (.415) with six homers and 11 RBIs.
“If we’ve got Josh Donaldson back to being Josh Donaldson, this is going to be a fun year,” Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman said Wednesday.
–Field Level Media