Clear mind a benefit to Sanchez in playoffs

Clear mind a benefit to Sanchez in playoffs

ARLINGTON -- Even though it turned out to be a memorable one for his teammates, Jonathan Sanchez's last start was forgettable for the left-hander.

Thankfully for the Giants, Sanchez had no problems moving on -- which is a big difference from what was the case earlier in his career.

"Earlier in my career, I kept those types of things in my head," Sanchez said in Spanish after the Giants moved two wins away from a World Series title with a 9-0 victory in Game 2 on Thursday night. "I felt almost like I was forced to go out there the next day if I was coming off a rough outing. Now, if it goes bad, I go out there the next time, and if it goes bad again, I get back at it again -- until it goes well."

The Giants are hoping that will happen on Saturday, even though it will be a tall order against a Rangers team that will be at home and, down 2-0, desperate to capture the win it needs to maintain a fighting chance in this series.

"It's just comfortable to be back home in front of our fans," said Rangers manager Ron Washington, who will oppose Sanchez with Colby Lewis. "We can draw energy from them, and that's what we need."

Tale of the Tape: World Series Game 3
2010 Regular Season
Overall: 32 GS, 12-13, 3.72 ERA, 65 BB, 196 K
Overall: 34 G, 33 GS, 13-9, 3.07 ERA, 96 BB, 205 K
Key stat: Eleven postseason walks are most of all pitchers
Key stat: 2-1 with 2.88 ERA in five starts following outings in which he didn't make it to the fifth inning
Postseason
2010: 3 GS, 2-0, 1.45 ERA
Career: 3 GS, 2-0, 1.45 ERA
2010: 3 GS, 0-1, 2.93 ERA
Career: 3 GS, 0-1, 2.93 ERA
At RANGERS BALLPARK
2010: 17 GS, 8-4, 3.07 ERA Career: 42 G, 33 GS, 15-9, 4.79 ERA
2010: N/A Career: N/A
Against this opponent
2010: N/A Career: 1 G, 0-0, 0.00 ERA
2010: N/A Career: 1 G, 1-0, 0.00 ERA
Loves to face: Mike Fontenot (1-for-3)
Hates to face: Aubrey Huff (2-for-4, 1 HR)
Loves to face: Jeff Francoeur (2-for-14)
Hates to face: Jorge Cantu (2-for-6)
Game breakdown
Why he'll win: Coming off best outing (8 innings, 1 run, 7 K's) in a month
Why he'll win: When stuff is on and mind is right, one of the best lefties in the game
Pitcher beware: Giants have won each of their first road games this postseason
Pitcher beware: Struggled in last NLCS outing, lasting only two-plus innings
Bottom line: Confident power pitcher
Bottom line: Must control emotions

Sanchez -- whose next turn on the mound will come at 3:30 p.m. PT, in a game broadcast on FOX -- just needs to get back on track.

During Game 6 of the National League Championship Series against the Phillies -- what wound up being the World Series clincher for the Giants -- he threw up an ugly line through two-plus innings: Two runs, three hits, two walks and one hit by pitch that resulted in an on-field spat with Chase Utley.

During the Giants' workout at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on Friday, manager Bruce Bochy was asked whether Sanchez's struggles were physical or mental.

"I think a little bit of both," Bochy responded. "Sometimes, they go hand in hand when a guy is over-amped and he gets out of his delivery a little bit, and I think that certainly was the case with Johnny."

When Sanchez takes the mound for his fourth career postseason start -- all on the road -- Bochy will be watching him closely during the early innings, which usually give him a good indication of what kind of outing he'll get from his No. 3 starter.

Bochy said Sanchez has a tendency to "get out of sync a little bit" with his delivery. But if he's hitting his spots in the first few innings "that means that he's got a good rhythm out there, a good tempo, and when he does that, he usually has a nice game because he's getting all of his pitches where he wants them."

Despite the recent hiccup, Sanchez proclaims confidence -- and he has reason to. Over the 27-year-old's final seven starts of the season, his ERA was 1.03. In his first two career postseason starts, it was 2.03. And on the road during the season, his ERA was 2.86 (better than his 3.26 mark at home).

He limited the Braves to one run in 7 1/3 innings in his playoff debut. And despite struggling early at the hitter-friendly Citizens Bank Park, he finished Game 2 of the NLCS giving up two earned runs in six frames to the Phils.

"I've pitched pretty well," noted Sanchez, who was dropped to third in the rotation for this round because, as Bochy said, Matt Cain was fresher. "I'm going over there [to Texas] to do my job, and that's all I'm focusing on."

Like many of the pitchers in this series, the opposition doesn't have much experience against Sanchez. The only two Rangers who have faced the lefty are Jeff Francoeur (2-for-14 in his career) and Jorge Cantu (2-for-6), and neither may get a chance in Game 3.

As for Sanchez, the only time he faced the Rangers was during his rookie year in 2006, when he hurled two-thirds of an inning against Texas.

The southpaw believes he has matured a lot since then, as evidenced by his recent big-game performances and his ability to bounce back after poor outings (he's 2-1 with a 2.88 ERA in five starts following outings in which he didn't make it to the fifth inning).

With that in mind, Bochy is ready to chalk his last start up as an enigma.

"Sometimes you get out of sync, and you see good pitchers sometimes, they don't find it out there," the Giants' skipper said. "It's not their day. Just like a hitter may go 0-for-4 -- he's not seeing the ball as well. That happens. What's most important is how you deal with it, handle it, and you have to wash it off and put it behind you."

Sanchez seems to do just fine with that.

Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Gonzo and 'The Show'. Follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.