Sanchez seeks better outcome, clinch for Giants

Sanchez seeks better outcome, clinch for Giants

SAN FRANCISCO -- As the National League Championship Series shifts back to Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia for Saturday's Game 6 and a possible Game 7 on Sunday -- after the Phillies trimmed the Giants' NLCS lead to 3-2 with a 4-2 win Thursday -- San Francisco will place the ball in the left hand of Jonathan Sanchez for the biggest game of his career.

It'll be Sanchez vs. Roy Oswalt in a rewind of Game 2 to perhaps send the Giants back to the World Series for the first time since 2002.

Tale of the Tape: NLCS Game 6
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
Postseason
2010: 3 G, 2 GS, 1-1, 3.29 ERA
Career: 11 G, 9 GS, 5-1, 3.58 ERA
2010: 2 GS, 0-1, 2.03 ERA
Career: 2 GS, 0-1, 2.03 ERA
At CITIZENS BANK PARK
2010: 7 GS, 6-0, 1.81 ERA Career: 11 GS, 10-0, 2.10 ERA
2010: 2 GS, 1-1, 1.93 ERA Career: 3 GS, 1-2, 1.80 ERA
Against this opponent
2010: 6 G, 5 GS, 2-4, 2.78 ERA Career: 19 G, 18 GS, 7-9, 3.57 ERA
2010: 3 GS, 2-1, 1.89 ERA Career: 10 G, 6 GS, 3-2, 2.88 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 October veteran
Why he'll win: Won NL West-clinching regular-season finale
Pitcher beware: Threw 18 pitches in Game 4 relief appearance
Pitcher beware: Checkered history in prime-time situations
Bottom line: This is why he's here
Bottom line: He's clinched before
In this past Sunday's Game 2 at Philadelphia, Sanchez pitched into the seventh inning, allowing just three runs on five hits, while walking three and whiffing seven. He took the loss, 6-1, because Oswalt threw eight innings of three-hit ball.

"I thought he threw the ball well," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "I thought he did a good job. Johnny's been probably as good as anybody on our staff the last six weeks. I thought he did a nice job in Game 2."

Sanchez has been a very nice roll of late.

There was a victory over the Padres in a crucial game on the final day of the season in San Francisco that clinched the National League West title. On Oct. 10 in Atlanta, Sanchez wasn't the winner, but he turned in an excellent 7 1/3 innings of two-hit ball in a pivotal Game 3 of an NL Division Series the Giants won in four games.

Until this past Sunday at Citizens Bank Park, Sanchez had been major pain for the Phillies all season.

During their only Philly trip of the regular season 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.

Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said his club tried a different approach against Sanchez in the NLCS.

"Basically from what I saw, the success we had against him was when we tried to make him bring the ball up, especially when he got ahead of us in the count," Manuel recalled Thursday. "He's got good command of his stuff and he throws a good slider. Usually to right-handed hitters, it breaks down toward the back knee. He keeps the ball down good. We were a little bit more patient and we got some better pitches to hit than we usually do. But he pitched good. I felt like he pitched a pretty good, strong game against us."

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 in 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 recently 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."

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.