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Baseball Far from a masterpiece, but Sanchez gets first win of season

Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Aaron Sanchez works against the Baltimore Orioles during first inning AL baseball action in Toronto on Wednesday, April 22, 2015.

The Canadian Press

It was far from a masterpiece for Aaron Sanchez; seven walks issued over 5.1 innings Wednesday night and he still managed the win in a 4-2 triumph by the Toronto Blue Jays over the Baltimore Orioles at Rogers Centre.

Afterward, Toronto manager John Gibbons was asked if he'd ever heard of a better performance from a starter who gave up that many bases on balls.

"I think A.J. Burnett threw a no hitter and walked nine," Gibbons answered without missing a beat. "That's a little better."

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Gibbons must have been thumbing through the record book before he was debriefed by the media to remember that one.

Burnett's effort occurred in his second start of the 2001 Major League Baseball season when he was a member of the Miami Marlins. The future Blue Jay did indeed overcome nine freebies while tossing a no-hitter to beat the San Diego Padres 3-0.

Sanchez's no-hit bid went out the window in the third inning when he gave up a two-run home run shot to Jimmy Paredes for a 2-0 Baltimore lead, so at least he did not have that to worry about.

After that it was all about survival for Sanchez and for that you have to give him full marks in that regard, pushing himself just to get into the sixth inning with just two hits against his ledger.

By that time the Blue Jays had regained the lead on a couple of two-run, home-run shots by Justin Smoak in the fourth and Devon Travis in the fifth and the Blue Jays were able to hang on for the win.

It marked the first time since Sept. 8, 1995, when Jeff Ware gave up seven walks during a 9-5 win over the Detroit Tigers, that a Toronto starter has issued that many bases on balls and still walked off with a victory.

And it was not just any win but the first for Sanchez (against two losses) since he was shifted out of the bullpen and into the starting rotation for the start of the 2015 Major League Baseball season.

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"It was a battle for him, especially early," Gibbons said. "You look up there and he's throwing more balls than strikes. But I thought he kicked it in a little bit, especially in that fourth inning.

"And it's been a battle for him up until this point this year and it's nice to see him get a win. Overall, even though he walked those guys, I thought he was a little more confident today and more relaxed, which is a big part of it."

"Obviously... the walks, I'm not happy about," Sanchez said. "But I made pitches when I needed to make pitches and I stayed in there as long as I could."

Two double plays that helped get him out of trouble in the first and second innings were also timely.

The home run for Smoak was his first of the season and it is that kind of power that the Blue Jays were hoping he would display on a regular basis after signing him as a free agent in the off-season.

And for Travis, the home run was his fourth of the year for the second baseman. Not bad for a rookie who had never played above Double-A prior to this season.

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The Blue Jays always had confidence that Travis would be able to hit, but the long ball production has been a welcome surprise.

"You watch him play defence, those double plays," Gibbons marveled. "He's got that great power feed. It really looks like he's been out there a while. Zero panic. He's a special kid, great pickup."

A big loopy grin crosses his face when you ask the compact Travis the secret behind his power generation.

"Oh man, I don't know," he began. "I don't know what's happening. Yeah man, that's just a blessing 'cause I don't know where the heck that's coming from."

But four home runs?

"I don't know if I've ever hit four home runs in however many games I've played. Yeah, I don't know. Just trying to get good pitches to hit. Crazy."

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