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June 29, 2024

Cristopher Sánchez's breakout 2024 continues with first career shutout: 'Nothing's impossible'

The Phillies left-hander blanked the Marlins in a 2-0 gem on Friday night to keep on adding to what has already been an unreal 2024 season.

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Cristopher-Sanchez-Phillies-Marlins-Shutout-6.28.24-MLB.jpg Bill Streicher/USA TODAY Sports

Cristopher Sánchez. All-Star.

Cristopher Sánchez sent Josh Bell down swinging for the final out and let out a roar. 

At that point, he more than earned the right to let it all out. 

By the time he was out of the seventh, the Marlins were being held scoreless on a run where Sánchez had retired 14 straight batters.

By the eighth with one out, Miami had finally gotten a runner in scoring position for the first time all game, but Sánchez responded with consecutive outs, including the inning-ending strikeout of Vidal Bruján to get him out of the frame at 92 pitches and to the furthest he had ever gone in the start.

By the ninth, Sánchez went just that extra bit further. A 1-2-3 inning to cap off a complete game shutout – the first-ever of his career– and to hand the Phillies a statement of 2-0 win just hours after learning they'd be without crucial hitters Bryce Harper and Kyle Schwarber for the next couple of weeks

Sánchez threw 101 pitches, struck out nine, walked none, only allowed three hits, and hardly gave the Marlins a chance at making any kind of decent contact. 

The left-hander's changeup and sinker were at their very best and had Miami hitters flailing, continuing a breakout season where he's been among baseball's very best. His ERA after Friday night dropped to 2.41, the sixth-best mark in the majors, and in the two starts since signing his four-year contract extension to keep him as a Phillie for the foreseeable future, it's almost like the 27-year old reached another level entirely – posting back-to-back scoreless outings where the Diamondbacks and then the Marlins could only muster six hits against him across 16 innings combined. 

So yeah, when Sánchez got the final out of an absolute gem Friday night down at Citizens Bank Park, he screamed. So did catcher Garrett Stubbs, who called the game for him behind the plate.

He earned it. 

"Sanchy deserved every bit of showing a little bit of emotion," Stubbs said postgame. "To watch him punch out Bruján in the eighth and show something, and then come back out in the ninth and do it – have a 1-2-3 inning – I screamed at the last out. It's just fun. It's just a lot of fun going out there and watching him do his thing."

Because he's come such a long way to do it. 

"I'm so proud of this kid because he's come so far," manager Rob Thomson said. "And now he's a dominant pitcher, really, in Major League Baseball. When you saw him a couple of years ago, you wouldn't – I didn't think he'd be able to do it. But he's worked hard, he's trusted his coaches in the minor leagues and his coaches here. He's phenomenal. He really is."

Not bad for a fourth starter, huh? Very arguably an All-Star now, too. 

"I haven't thought about it yet, but that's definitely a goal for me this year," Sánchez said from the clubhouse afterward through team translator Diego D'Aniello

Either way, what he achieved on Friday night and throughout the season so far has been nothing short of incredible, and at a point in the season where the Phillies might have to rely on their starting pitching the most.

In 2021, Sánchez was a minor-league call-up who got a few looks out of the bullpen. In 2022, he got his feet deeper into the water and saw a few spot starts. In 2023, he developed enough trust to become the fifth starter at the back of the rotation and even kept the spot in the NLCS as the losing effort to the Diamondbacks stretched out to the full seven games. 

In 2024, everything has soared to career-best marks, with Sánchez pitching toward the back of a rotation like he'd be at the top anywhere else – a good problem for the Phillies, or any club for that matter, to have when it's Zack Wheeler, Aaron Nola, and Ranger Suárez in front of him. 

But most notably among all his numbers: Through 16 starts, Sánchez has still only given up one home run – way back on April 29 against the Angels. 

Opposing lineups have struggled to try to tag him otherwise, which is something Thomson credited to Sánchez's much more developed changeup, but just as much his maturity, too. 

"Command of the baseball really and development of the changeup," Thomson said. "I mean there are so many things with him, really. Mentally and emotionally he has grown up before our eyes, and he's just really...I'm really proud of him. I really am."

It's brought him a long way, and might just carry him even further through what's already been an unreal season. 

"That nothing's impossible," Sánchez said of what can be taken away from his season so far. "If you want to do something, you can do it. You just have to focus and work really hard towards it."

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