Back in April, when most experts were forecasting yet another losing season for the Braves, Anibal Sanchez predicted otherwise.
He insisted then to Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos that the team had the makings of a winner.
"I always tell Alex, 'Remember what I told you in April,'" Sanchez said. "I told him, like, ‘Hey, man, you’ve got a pretty special team over here. You’re going to see at the end of the season what is going to happen.’
“And there it is,” Sanchez added Sunday, referring to the Braves’ newly clinched National League East championship.
Sanchez, who was impressed early by the Braves’ talent and resilience, has had a key role in the team’s surprisingly successful season as a reliable member of the starting pitching rotation.
A 13-year MLB veteran, with the Marlins from 2006-12 and the Tigers from 2012-17, he was released by the Twins on March 11 and signed by the Braves five days later. He had struggled to a 6.41 ERA in 28 games (17 starts) with Detroit last season.
“In all honesty, I think originally (the Braves’ thinking) was that he’d be a good long reliever and, if we needed, a spot starter,” manager Brian Snitker recalled.
He has been much more.
His 7-6 record deceives, as pitchers’ win-loss records often do, because of slim run support. He collected his first win since Aug. 3 on Sunday despite posting a 3.24 ERA in eight starts during that 0-3 stretch. For the season, he has a 2.96 ERA in 23 starts. He appears to have a secure spot in the Braves’ postseason rotation.
“What a great story (he) is,” Snitker said after Sanchez held the Phillies to four hits and one run in five innings in the Braves’ 2-1 win Sunday.
Snitker described Sanchez, 34, as a “complete pitcher” in terms of “knowing what you’re doing and executing pitches.”
“He has been a big part of our club,” the manager said.
And, since April, a big believer in it.
Notes: Rookie Touki Toussaint (2-1, 4.30) will make his fifth start for the Braves on Tuesday in the opener of a three-game series against the Mets in New York. The Mets are scheduled to start Noah Syndergaard (12-4, 3.36). … Sean Newcomb, whose struggles caused the Braves to skip his scheduled turn in the rotation Saturday against the Phillies, is scheduled to start the second game of the Mets series Wednesday against Jacob deGrom (9-9, 1.77). ... Newcomb needs a strong showing to possibly bolster his bid to be in the postseason rotation. If the Braves face the Dodgers in the Division Series, that might enhance left-hander Newcomb’s chances. The Dodgers have a .238 team batting average and .731 OPS vs. lefties, compared to .252 and .787 vs. right-handers. Newcomb held the Dodgers hitless for 8-2/3 innings on July 29.
The Braves finished their regular-season home schedule with a 43-38 record at SunTrust Park. They are 45-30 on the road with six games left. ... Snitker plans to seek a balance this week between two playoff-related objectives: intermittently resting key players and chasing home-field advantage for the Division Series. “We’re going to do the best we can to get it … within the scope of giving a guy or two a day off here and there the next week,” Snitker said. ... Through Sunday, the Braves (88-68) led the Dodgers (87-69) by one game and the Rockies (85-70) by 2½ games for home-field advantage in what appears to be a probable matchup against the NL West winner.