Sanchez rebounds behind pinpoint location

Right-hander fans seven with no walks over seven innings vs. Twins

Sanchez rebounds behind pinpoint location

MINNEAPOLIS -- With the Blue Jays new-look lineup stealing the headlines through two games at Target Field, perhaps the bigger storyline in two victories over the Twins has been the performance of Toronto's starting pitchers.

On Friday, it was Aaron Sanchez's turn to rebound after a tough outing in his last game. He struck out seven and walked none, allowing two runs on eight hits over seven innings in the Blue Jays' 9-3 victory over the Twins.

Sanchez's strong outing came on the heels of eight innings of two-run ball by Marco Estrada on Thursday.

Toronto entered the series having lost five consecutive games, with a slumping offence and a pitching staff that had allowed at least five runs in seven straight.

"Starting pitching is the name of the game and they've been so good all year long, the homestand before we got here, we had a couple bumps in the road. You could say we were almost due for that they've been so good," said Blue Jays manager John Gibbons. "The key is, you move on past that one and that's part of baseball."

Sanchez has been mostly strong through his first eight starts, but allowed six runs on seven hits in 6 2/3 innings in a no-decision against Texas on Sunday. Three of the runs charged to Sanchez came in the seventh, including two on a three-run homer off reliever Jesse Chavez, who entered after Sanchez allowed a walk and a single with two outs in the inning.

The way things ended last time out left a bad taste in Sanchez's mouth and he said he was excited to get back on the mound.

Sanchez whiffs Dozier

He even showed how much he had grown in the span of five days, as things had a chance to spiral out of control on Sanchez again in the seventh on Friday. The right-hander had cruised through six innings, but allowed a double by Jorge Polanco and an RBI single to Robbie Grossman to start the seventh.

After getting a popout to third, Sanchez got a comebacker to the mound, only to make a wild throw to second, putting two runners on with just one out. But instead of melting down, Sanchez dug in and got Brian Dozier to bounce into a 6-3 double play to end the threat and end his night on a positive note.

"To have that play be made and to get through seven instead of having to be taken out in that situation is huge," Sanchez said. "Wanting to finish that inning and not having to bring guys in during the inning, it's always easier coming into a clean inning than having to come in with runners on and momentum being on their side. For me to get through that inning was huge."

Perhaps the most encouraging part of Sanchez's outing on Friday was his penchant for making the Twins earn their way on base. After walking four on Sunday and issuing five free passes the start before in a win against San Francisco, Sanchez didn't have a walk for the first time since he went seven innings in his first start of the season April 5.

"Really, for anyone, that's the name of the game, you want to make them earn whatever they get," Gibbons said. "But that's how you can tell how far he's come. And you know that's only going to get better."

Dan Myers is a contributor to and covered the Blue Jays on Friday. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.