TORONTO -- The high number of walks is still an issue, but Aaron Sanchez is finding a way to succeed even when his command isn't consistent.
Sanchez walked five batters and hit another on Friday night, but that didn't stop him from tossing seven-plus scoreless innings in a 7-0 win over Boston. It's the continuation of a trend from a pitcher who leads the league in free passes, but has yet to allow more than three earned runs in a start.
The ability to induce timely ground balls has been a saving grace for Sanchez during the first month of his career as a big league starter. That was the case against Boston, especially in the fourth inning, when he walked two and hit Allen Craig to load the bases with nobody out.
"I think it came down to me making pitches when I needed to make pitches," said Sanchez, who struck out Blake Swihart and got a double play off the bat of Xander Bogaerts to end the fourth. "I felt there were a couple of pitches in that inning that could have gone either way. Russell [Martin] came out and told me to calm down, just play catch and I found a way to get out of it."
Sanchez did find a way to settle into a groove after that jam in the fourth inning. He retired 11 consecutive batters at one point, the outing marked a career-high in innings pitched and was the first time he didn't allow a run since joining the rotation earlier this year.
The 22-year-old has won three consecutive decisions and Friday's outing was his first quality start. There are plenty of positives to build from, and while the number of walks will be alarming to some, it's something that Sanchez claims doesn't even enter his mind during the actual game.
"Honestly, I don't even know how many walks I had," said Sanchez, who has a 3.62 ERA in six starts this year. "I was trying to get as many outs as I possibly could until [manager John Gibbons] grabbed the ball and that was my mentality."
Gibbons believes that some of Sanchez's early command issues are related to overthrowing. It's something he mentioned a couple of times earlier this year and he reiterated that point following Sanchez's impressive showing against Boston.
"It's almost like his other starts when he's walked a lot of guys," Gibbons said. "He tires out a little bit and things come together for him. I think he does have a tendency early on to overthrow, I think he battles that.
"Take a look at the history of sinkerballers, they wear out a little bit and things get better. He was throwing the whole night, kind of like a second wind. This was the strongest we've seen him all year."