Anibal Sanchez carries no-hitter into 8th as Nats beat Cardinals

Anibal Sanchez carried a no-hit bid into the eighth inning, Howie Kendrick had two more big swings and the Washington Nationals beat the St. Louis Cardinals 2-0 on Friday night in the NL Championship Series opener.

Game 2 is back at Busch Stadium in St. Louis on Saturday

Anibal Sanchez throws 7.2 innings of no-hit ball to help lead the Washington Nationals to a 2-0 win in game one of the NLCS. (Scott Kane/Getty Images)

It turns out Washington's Big Three is a Big Four.

Don't forget about Anibal Sanchez.

The right-hander carried a no-hit bid into the eighth inning, Howie Kendrick had two more big swings and the Nationals beat the St. Louis Cardinals 2-0 on Friday night in the NL Championship Series opener.

"Tonight was obviously vintage Anibal," first baseman Ryan Zimmerman said.

Sanchez had allowed just three runners when he took the mound for the eighth. Zimmerman robbed Tommy Edman with an outstanding diving grab at full stretch for the first out, but pinch-hitter Jose Martinez cleanly singled to centre with two down for the Cardinals' first hit.

"I just tried to keep focused on every pitch that I'm going to throw," Sanchez said. "I don't want to miss any kind of pitch in the middle in the zone against those guys."

WATCH | Sanchez stymies Cardinals:

Anibal Sanchez carried a no-hitter into the 8th inning to help the Washington Nationals beat the St. Louis Cardinals 2-0 in Game 1 of the NLCS. 1:55

Sanchez thought he was going to finish the no-hitter after the big grab.

"When Zimmerman caught the ball I said, 'OK, I've got it,"' the pitcher recalled.

Sean Doolittle relieved and got four straight outs to finish the one-hitter for his first post-season save in two years.

Scherzer vs. Wainwright next

Sanchez and Doolittle made life easy on manager Dave Martinez after the Nationals placed closer Daniel Hudson on the paternity list before the franchise's first appearance in the NLCS since the Montreal Expos moved to Washington ahead of the 2005 season.

"I think the mood of the guys in the bullpen, we really wanted to find a way to pick him up and allow him to enjoy a really special moment with his wife and his family," Doolittle said.

Game 2 is back at Busch Stadium on Saturday. Washington ace Max Scherzer starts in his hometown, and Adam Wainwright gets the ball for St. Louis. Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin will follow when the series moves to Nationals Park.

"People were talking about the Big Three," Cardinals manager Mike Shildt said, "but we got a guy tonight that we got to contend with and not overlook him."

St. Louis wasted a solid performance by Miles Mikolas, who pitched six innings of one-run ball in his second career playoff start.

Washington scored each of its runs with two outs. Kendrick doubled and came home on Yan Gomes' double in the second. Kendrick then singled in Adam Eaton in the seventh after Eaton reached on a one-out triple against Giovanny Gallegos.

Kendrick also had the big blow in Washington's Game 5 victory at Los Angeles on Wednesday night, a 10th-inning grand slam.

"It's going to be a fun series," Kendrick said. "Hopefully we can continue to play really good baseball and put up runs and get some wins."

Gomes finished with two hits while subbing for catcher Kurt Suzuki, who left the Nationals' clinching victory against the Dodgers with a head injury.

Hitless history

Sanchez became the first pitcher to start two post-season games with six hitless innings. Facing Boston for Detroit in the 2013 AL Championship Series opener, he was replaced by Al Alburquerque at the start of the seventh. The Tigers won 1-0, allowing their only hit when Daniel Nava singled off Joaquin Benoit with one out in the ninth.

Sanchez got his first playoff win since he struck out 12 in that game. He threw a no-hitter for the Florida Marlins in his 13th big league start as a rookie in 2006 and also has pitched four one-hitters.

He started this year 0-6 in his first nine starts but went 11-2 in his final 19.

For a while, it looked as if he might be headed to the third no-hitter in post-season history.

"He was good," Edman said. "He was just hitting his spots and keeping us off balance all night, and we just didn't execute our plan very well."

Sanchez retired his first 10 batters before Kolten Wong walked in the fourth on a chilly, breezy evening.

Wong stole second and took third on Gomes' throwing error, but Marcell Ozuna hit an inning-ending foulout.

Pinch-hitter Randy Arozarena was hit by a pitch with one out in the sixth, but the 35-year-old Sanchez retired Dexter Fowler and Wong. He plunked Yadier Molina in the seventh before Matt Carpenter bounced out.

"He was spot on with everything he threw today," Gomes said.

Sanchez struck out five in his ninth career post-season start. He threw 67 of 103 pitches for strikes.


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.