The Marlins raised some eyebrows with their decision to start rookie right-hander Sixto Sánchez against the Cubs in Game 2 of the Wild Card Series. Electric as he had been at times during the summer, Sánchez concluded the regular season with back-to-back clunkers. Could he be trusted with so much at stake?
He rewarded the club’s trust on Friday, striking out six Cubs over five scoreless innings at Wrigley Field, giving Miami a great opportunity to clinch the series.
It didn’t take long to recognize that Sixto was going to be effective. Facing perennial All-Star Anthony Rizzo in the bottom of the first inning, the 22-year-old froze him with a perfectly placed changeup.
In general, however, Sixto was very fastball-reliant during his first pass through the experienced Chicago lineup. That’s understandable on a day when his velocity routinely reached triple digits.
Sixto Sanchez, Overpowering 100mph Fastball. pic.twitter.com/ONVAIt7qFh— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) October 2, 2020
We aren’t going to sugarcoat the performance: Sixto occasionally flirted with trouble. There were two hit by pitches—the same amount he allowed in seven previous major league starts combined—and the Cubs nearly plated a run in the bottom of the fourth.
Batting with runners on first and second and one out, Jason Heyward lined a single to right field. After an initial hesitation, Willson Contreras attempted to break the 0-0 tie. It took an outstanding throw by Matt Joyce to nail him at home.
That rally required 27 exhausting pitches.
Then in the fifth, the Cubs loaded the bases for Kyle Schwarber. Sixto’s strike-throwing consistency was slipping by this point and James Hoyt could be seen warming in the Marlins bullpen. But the rookie escaped the jam with a pair of clutch changeups—one to get ahead in the count 1-2, and another to induce the inning-ending fly out.
Lifted after five innings and 89 pitches, Sánchez will settle for a no-decision. Even so, he joins Josh Beckett as the only pitchers in Marlins history to have a scoreless start in the postseason (Beckett did that twice during the 2003 World Series run).