WASHINGTON, D.C.–Friday night’s Game 3 matchup between the Astros’ Zack Greinke (36) and the Nationals’ Anibal Sanchez (35) features two of the oldest players on either roster. Barely 4 months separates the two starters, making them the closest pitchers in age to face-off in this World Series. The next closest being Justin Verlander and Stephen Strasburg, who are separated by 5 years, 5 months exactly. Both are the 3rd starters for their respective ball clubs this series but it’s a credit to the two pitching staffs that both, especially Greinke, would be a #1 or #2 starter, minimum, on the majority of other teams in the league. The matchup in a Game 3 in what is arguably the biggest baseball game in the history of The District and definitely the history of Nationals Park.
Donald Zachary Greinke made his Major League debut with the Kansas City Royals in 2004, and his 205 career victories have him ranked #2 in terms of wins for active pitchers, behind only his teammate, Justin Verlander’s 225. Greinke, with CC Sabathia’s retirement, is also now the only active pitcher left that actually faced the Montreal Expos, the ball club that became the Washington Nationals in 2005. Despite being the 3rd starter on this year’s Houston ball club, he may have the most success in this series against the Nationals. He already took a no-hit bid against Washington into the 7th inning back in June as a member of the Arizona Diamondbacks at Nationals Park. He also flirted with a no-no in his final start of the regular season for Houston. He has no-hit stuff but the eccentric pitcher “never thinks about no-hitters…ever,” feels they would be accompanied by “nonsense” and throwing one “would be a hassle.”
Despite being more hittable this postseason with an 0-2 record and 6.43 ERA than his 18-5, 2.93 ERA regular season stats, Greinke should benefit from being back in a National League park which allows him to bat. On top of his .280 batting average this season, which as a pitcher is often said to be the equivalent of a .400 hitting position player, he admittedly keeps his head in the game better when he bats and doesn’t have to just sit around in the dugout when he’s not pitching. Greinke also has 9 career stolen bases and has been known to take off on his own, famously saying in 2013 “they didn’t say not to go” when asked if he had been given the sign to steal.
Anibal Alejandro Sanchez, Jr, on the other hand, has actually thrown a no-hitter. He did so against Greinke’s former team, the Diamondbacks, 13 years ago on September 6, 2006, as rookie for the then Florida Marlins. Sanchez’ no-hitter is also unique in that he was one of 6 rookies in the starting lineup that day for Florida, a record number to play for the winning team in a no-hitter. Sanchez also holds the distinction of being one of only two pitchers in Major League history to strike out 4 batters in one inning in a postseason game, doing so against the Boston Red Sox in the 2013 ALCS while on the Detroit Tigers. The only other pitcher to do this in the postseason was the Chicago Cubs’ Orval Overall in the 1908 World Series. Sanchez would go on to strike out 12 batters over 6 no-hit innings in that game, further showcasing his no-hit stuff. He also threw 7.2 no-hit innings in Game 1 of the NLCS against the St. Louis Cardinals.
Despite making his debut in 2006, Sanchez did not earn his 100th career victory until this season, ironically also against the now Miami Marlins in on June 16th. After his 11-8, 3.85 ERA regular season, Sanchez sits at .500, 108-108, for his career, but his 2.57 career postseason ERA (the same as his 2.57 career World Series ERA) shows he saves his best stuff for this time of year.
Both pitchers feature 5 to 6 different pitches that vary in speeds from the mid-90s to mid-60s, with Greinke’s “eephus” pitch dipping into the high-50s. This pitch type, speed and arm slot variation is part of what makes both pitchers so effective at keeping opposing hitters off balance. Both pitchers are also good fielders, with Greinke holding the edge thanks to his 5 Gold Glove Awards and career .987 fielding percentage. Both players have combined to commit only 23 errors across a combined 30 seasons of play and 1,132 chances.
The pressure in this game is squarely on Zack Greinke, as a poor performance would most likely put his team in the unenvious position of a 0-3 World Series deficit. An 0-3 hole has only once been overcome in Major League history and never in Word Series history. Sanchez needs only to continue the success he has had since the beginning of June and even more so since the beginning of the playoffs, to give his team a chance to take the corresponding 3-0 series lead and set his team up for a potential home clinch either Saturday or Sunday.
Only three home teams have ever lost the first two games of a World Series and come back to win the series. Of those three teams, only the 1986 Mets actually had a better record then the team they came back on, as back then the World Series’ home field advantage was rotated every year between the AL and NL teams and was not based on regular season winning percentage as it is today.
The Nationals are doing well in uncharted territory that is the world existing past the NLDS, having gone 6-0 since finally breaking through. This team has gelled in ways that even their skipper, Davey Martinez, a baseball lifer, and owner of a World Series ring as a coach on the ’16 Chicago Cubs, has never seen. The Astros have to fix whatever has become broken since their ALCS victory if they have any hope of winning the Series but luckily for the Nationals, they don’t have to change a thing.
First pitch is scheduled for 8:08 pm at Nationals Park.