PHILADELPHIA -- With every start Giants left-hander Jonathan Sanchez has recently made, the pressure keeps ratcheting up. There was a victory over the Padres in a must-win game on the final day of the season in San Francisco that clinched the National League West title. This past Sunday in Atlanta, Sanchez wasn't the winner, but he turned in an excellent 7 1/3 innings of two-hit ball in the pivotal Game 3 of an NL Division Series the Giants won in four games.And Sunday at Citizens Bank Park, Sanchez will be called on once again against the Phillies' Roy Oswalt in Game 2 of the NL Championship Series, taking just another step up the pressure ladder. The biggest challenge?
- 2010 Regular Season
- Overall: 32 GS, 13-13, 2.76 ERA, 55 BB, 193 Ks
- Overall: 33 GS, 13-9, 3.07 ERA, 96 BB, 205 Ks
- Key stat: League-leading 1.025 WHIP
- Key stat: 8-4, 2.27 ERA in past 12 starts
- 2010: 1 GS, 0-0, 5.40 ERA
Career: 8 GS, 4-0, 3.83 ERA
- 2010: 1 GS, 0-0, 1.23 ERA
Career: 1 GS, 0-0, 1.23 ERA
- At CITIZENS BANK PARK
- 2010: 6 GS, 5-0, 1.76 ERA Career: 10 GS, 9-0, 2.10 ERA
- 2010: 1 GS, 1-0, 1.13 ERA Career: 2 GS, 1-1, 1.29 ERA
- Against this opponent
- 2010: 4 GS, 1-3, 3.33 ERA Career: 17 GS, 6-8, 3.61 ERA
- 2010: 2 GS, 2-0 1.38 ERA Career: 9 G, 5 GS, 2-1, 2.86 ERA
- Loves to face: Pat Burrell (4-for-18)
Hates to face: Freddy Sanchez (11-for-36)
- Loves to face: Jimmy Rollins (1-for-16)
Hates to face: Shane Victorino (6-for-15)
- Game breakdown
- Why he'll win: Unbeaten in Philly and hungry to get back to Fall Classic
- Why he'll win: Dominant lefty has silenced potent Phillies bats in the past
- Pitcher beware: Struggled in NLDS outing
- Pitcher beware: Up-and-down lefty has been known to let emotions get the best of him
- Bottom line: Savvy veteran
- Bottom line: Coming of age?
"That they're home," Sanchez said about following right-hander Tim Lincecum and facing the predominately left-handed power-hitting Phillies. "They play pretty good at home. I mean, it's going to be an exciting game. But I'm just going to go watch my videos [Sunday] and see what they're doing against lefties." Giants manager Bruce Bochy decided to alter the rotation for the NLCS based on the success Sanchez has had against the Phillies, particularly this season. Against the Braves, it was Lincecum, Matt Cain and Sanchez in the first three games. This time around it's Lincecum, Sanchez and Cain. During their only trip here for a three-game series on Aug. 17-19, the Giants lost the first two games of the series by a combined score of 17-5. Bochy gave the ball to Sanchez for the final game of the series. That day, Sanchez pitched eight innings of two-hit, one-run ball, striking out seven and walking two as the Giants defeated Cole Hamels, 5-2. Overall, Sanchez was 2-0 in his two starts this season against the Phillies, allowing only two runs on five hits. "That was a great game he threw here the last day here," Bochy said. "We were fighting from getting swept, and he stepped up. And really, it was indicative of how he pitched from that point on with the big games that he threw, and the poise that he showed, including the last game of the season against San Diego. "We needed a big start there, facing a tough pitcher and a tough team, and he came through for us. He also came through for us in Atlanta. What a great job he did. I mean, this kid's really matured and shown so much better composure and poise out on the mound." Sanchez has fought wildness in his career, particularly earlier in the season. He was 13-9 in 33 starts, but allowed 142 hits and 96 walks in 193 1/3 innings for a WHIP (walks plus hits divided by innings pitched) of 1.23. At the same time, opposing hitters batted .204 against him. Of his 13 wins, four came in his last six starts. Sanchez said that he started pitching more aggressively later in the season and that was the reason for his increased success. "Just being aggressive in the strike zone ... trying to get first-pitch strikes and then just get ahead [in the count] with my breaking balls," he said. Bochy agreed that the difference was more substance than style. "He really didn't make any adjustment in his delivery as much as stopping from trying to overthrow, throw too hard, do too much," Bochy added. "Just stay in his delivery, and that's his focus. That's what's helped him with his command. At times he would fly open, trying to add a little bit to his fastball. And sometimes going for strikeouts, he tried to power his way through the lineup. He got away from that and became a more complete pitcher." It will be that more complete pitcher who will try to take the Giants a step further in the postseason Sunday.
Barry M. Bloom is national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.