Sanchez mixes pitches to lock down Astros

After allowing two runs in first, Blue Jays starter settles in to throw next six scoreless

Sanchez mixes pitches to lock down Astros

TORONTO -- Opposing teams sitting on the sinker used to be a problem for Aaron Sanchez. Not any longer.

Sanchez took advantage of an aggressive Astros lineup and tossed seven strong innings in Toronto's 4-2 victory on Saturday afternoon. Houston came out looking for the sinking fastball and found some early success, but after an adjustment was made, the Blue Jays' starter put up zero after zero, improving to 12-2 with a 2.84 ERA.

The 24-year-old Sanchez appears more confident with his curveball and changeup combination than ever before. He was once considered a one-pitch pitcher, but he now has two other reliable options, and that's one of the main reasons why Sanchez has become one of the game's top pitchers.

"It seemed like they were just going to jump on the heater early in counts," Blue Jays catcher Russell Martin said. "They were taking good swings off it, so we had to mix it up a little bit.

"Throw some more breaking balls and offspeed. He threw some strikes with it and kind of got them off the fastball just enough. Once he shows he has the ability to do that, it takes away from some of the aggressiveness."

That's the thing with Sanchez: he does not necessarily need the curveball and changeup to become elite-level pitches, but he does need to throw them for strikes. In the past, that was an issue, and as soon as a hitter recognized an offspeed pitch was on its way, they would simply take it.

Sanchez is now getting a lot of those pitches over for called strikes or inducing swings when hitters are off balance in the box. Opposing teams have no choice but to gear up for his upper-90s sinker, and when something else is thrown their way -- and works -- it has the potential to throw everything into disarray.

In the first inning, Sanchez allowed three of the first four batters to reach base, including a pair of back-to-back doubles by Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa. Until that point, Sanchez had exclusively thrown fastballs, but six of his next eight pitches were curveballs as he retired Marwin Gonzalez and Evan Gattis to end the threat.

According to Brooks Baseball, Sanchez's use of the breaking ball is actually slightly down of late, but he's picking and choosing his spots. Whatever he's doing, it's working.

"I had to make an adjustment quick out there," said Sanchez. "Starting any game, I kind of just go to my tendencies and my strengths, and they slapped three balls to right field in a hurry. I knew something needed to change there."

Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.