If it’s not finger issues for Aaron Sanchez, then it’s control problems.
Perhaps the two go hand in hand, so to speak.
On Wednesday night at Rogers Centre, the hard-luck right-hander was back on the mound for the Toronto Blue Jays, trying to figure it all out.
When Mike Trout is on the other side, that can often be a dicey proposition, as Sanchez was soon to discover.
The game’s top player had himself a night, with two of his three hits going for home runs while driving in a career high seven as the Los Angeles Angels had their way with the sloppy Blue Jays, who committed three errors that helped the Angels make off with an 11-6 victory.
Trout’s evening included a grand slam in the fourth inning that broke open a 3-3 ball game along with the back of Sanchez, who would exit the game shortly thereafter.
It was the second consecutive early dismissal for Sanchez, who had been expected to be a cornerstone of the Blue Jays’ rotation this season.
Instead, Sanchez has been more like a millstone around the team’s neck, with the setback extending his streak of losing decisions to eight, the longest such skid of his career. His record on the year sank to 3-9, his earned-run average is now up to 5.49.
“Just continue to pitch,” Sanchez said, when asked how he might fix what ails him. “That’s all you do. You you take the ball, you go out there, you take the good from your starts and you flush the bad and you keep moving on.
“I’ve been on the other side where I’ve won 10 games in a row so it is what it is.”
The loss was Toronto’s seventh in a row at home as the Blue Jays’ record dipped to 26-48. L.A. improved to 38-37 with the win.
Justin Upton also homered in the L.A. victory, while Rowdy Tellez swatted two in Toronto’s losing effort, raising the rookie’s total to 13 on the year while accounting for four of the Blue Jays runs.
Sanchez lasted just three innings in his previous outing last Friday in Houston, where he got slapped around for eight runs off six hits. Against L.A., he weathered 3.2 innings and allowed seven runs (six earned) off nine hits.
This is the third consecutive season that Sanchez has struggled with finger issues on his throwing hand, although Toronto manager Charlie Montoyo said before the game that Sanchez came out of his most recent start with all his digits in working order.
Still, the persistent problem has prevented Sanchez from building on the promise of the 2016 season, when he won the American League earned-run title with a 3.00 mark while going 15-2 and making the all-star team.
That season he logged 192 innings pitched, but he hasn’t come close to matching that since.
This season, Sanchez hasn’t had to miss any starts because of blisters or fingernail problems. But in three separate games he has been forced from the mound early when finger issues flared up, most recently on May 27 against Tampa Bay.
Sanchez’s effectiveness has also been hampered by control problems. He entered Wednesday’s game with 43 walks through 75 innings pitched, the third-highest total in the AL.
Sanchez added two more walks to his total on Wednesday and his pitch count was up to 85 when he departed in the fourth.
Montoyo said the on-again, off-again nature of Sanchez’s finger woes this year has played havoc with the pitcher getting into a groove on the mound.
“He hasn’t had five straight starts of consistent work,” Montoyo said before the game. “So whenever he gets to that point he’ll get it.”
Sanchez had to work for it, but he got out of the first inning on Wednesday unscathed, notwithstanding a fielding error by third baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr., who continues to have problems making defensive plays on the run.
The top of the second began with Guerrero atoning for that mistake, climbing the ladder, legs askew, to make a spectacular snare off a line-drive shot by Justin Bour for the first out.
Then things got dicey for Sanchez. He surrendered a two-out single to Luis Rengifo, who would come around to score on a double by Tommy La Stella to put the Angels in front 1-0.
Trout then murdered a 3-2 Sanchez pitch deep to left that extended the L.A. lead to 3-0.
Toronto would tie it on a three-run home run by Tellez in the bottom of the second, his 12th of the season, but Sanchez could not stem the bleeding.
In the L.A. fourth, Sanchez loaded the bases with a bit of help from Danny Jansen, who was called for catcher’s interference on what otherwise would have been a ground out by La Stella.
Trout then stepped into the batter’s box and pounded his grand slam, his 22nd dinger on the year, to move the Angels in front 7-3.
In the first three games of the series, Trout has hit .538 (seven for 13) with three home runs and 10 runs batted in.
In the bottom of the fourth, a single by Eric Sogard cut the L.A. lead to two.
But L.A. padded its lead with two more in the seventh.
Just one of those runs was earned after Toronto reliever Derek Law botched a tailor-made, inning-ending double-play ball by throwing wildly into centre field with the bases loaded.