Threshers' Sanchez shows grit in gem

Phillies top prospect gets out of late jam in best FSL start

Sixto Sanchez has lowered his ERA from 9.00 to 3.71 in his last two starts for Clearwater. (Buck Davidson/

By Marisa Ingemi / | April 28, 2018 9:29 PM

With six scoreless innings in the books, Sixto Sanchez's most impressive frame on Saturday came when he surrendered a run.

The top Phillies prospect had cruised through the Dunedin lineup until the seventh, when he put runners on second and third with nobody out. Sanchez needed only six pitches to limit the damage to one run and earned his first Florida State League win in Class A Advanced Clearwater's 2-1 victory.

Gameday box score

Sanchez (1-1) retired seven straight batters to reach the seventh for the first time this season. But Bradley Jones hit a leadoff single and raced to third on a base hit by Alberto Mineo, who took second on the throw. That's when's No. 26 overall prospect went to work. He got Nash Knight on a popup to shortstop, retired Eduard Pinto on a sacrifice fly that spoiled the shutout and induced Ivan Castillo to ground to third. 

It was a sequence that had his pitching coach excited about Sanchez's ability to pitch under duress.

"That was the best part of tonight," former Major Leaguer Aaron Fultz said. "They had second and third and no outs in a two-run game. He got a popup and the sac fly, but to see him really get after it and bring it was really good."

Sanchez gave up one run on four hits and a walk with two strikeouts, turning things over to the bullpen in the eighth. He attacked the strike zone to limit the damage, something he's done since his season debut, when he issued four walks over four innings. 

"His changeup was his best pitch," Fultz said. "He mixed his pitches well last start. When he mixes his pitches, that makes his fastball that much better."

Command is only part of the adjustments the Threshers have seen Sanchez make, but the development of his off-speed pitches, especially the changeup, has kept opponents off-balance.

"He's made a huge leap from his first start to his next two," Fultz said. "He changed his pitch selection and he's using his off-speed earlier in the count so they can't just sit on the fastball."

Sanchez got a taste of the FSL a year ago, posting a 4.55 ERA and 20 strikeouts over 27 2/3 innings. While his strikeout numbers were down against Dunedin, Fultz said it wasn't for a lack of swing-and-miss stuff.

"As good and hard as his fastball is, if he's only able to throw that, at some point it will get hit," he explained. "That's been the difference-maker, throwing strikes with more than two pitches. I would expect a few more strikeouts. He did have quite a few swings, but they put the ball in play and had outs before two strikes. The stuff was still there, they just weren't striking out today. Those will come."

Jeff Singer earned his second save of the season, working around a hit and a walk over the final two innings.

Phillies No. 9 prospect Arquimedes Gamboa gave Sanchez a 1-0 lead with an RBI groundout in the fifth and Austin Listi provided insurance with a leadoff homer in the sixth.

Marisa Ingemi is a contributor to Follow her on Twitter @Marisa_Ingemi. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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