Sanchez leaves early, bullpen pitches in

TORONTO 3, TAMPA BAY 1

The Hamilton Spectator - - SPORTS - MELISSA COUTO

TORONTO — Aaron Sanchez looked down at his fin­ger and saw the blood five pitches into his start.

All he could think about then was fin­ish­ing the in­ning. So he did. Sanchez threw 13 pitches, eras­ing a five-pitch lead­off walk with a strike­out and a dou­ble play be­fore leav­ing Toronto’s 3-1 Amer­i­can League base­ball win over the Tampa Bay Rays on Sun­day with a split nail on his right mid­dle fin­ger.

Once in the dugout, the 24-yearold Sanchez slammed his glove down on the bench in frus­tra­tion and headed straight into the club­house with pitch­ing coach Pete Walker.

“It was just a lot of pres­sure, sting­ing un­der­neath the nail,” said Sanchez, who was ac­ti­vated from the 10-day dis­abled list ear­lier in the day.

“It’s like some­body grab­bing your nail and rip­ping it out. It doesn’t feel good, but it’s just some­thing we have to bat­tle now.”

Sanchez had landed on the dis­abled list two weeks ago with a blis­ter on the same fin­ger and un­der­went a pro­ce­dure to re­move part of the nail from it.

The nail split hor­i­zon­tally. The pro­ce­dure, done by a spe­cial­ist in Kansas City, had cut the nail ver­ti­cally to re­move a quar­ter of it.

“Lead­ing into to­day we didn’t think this would be an is­sue,” Sanchez said. “I think once you get into game mode and game speed, pres­sure on the nail starts to dis­perse in cer­tain ar­eas and maybe it wasn’t strong enough, hon­estly we don’t know.”

Sanchez also doesn’t know if he’ll have to miss his next start. The team hopes to have a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing on Mon­day af­ter some of the swelling sub­sides.

In Sanchez’s absence, an un­likely hero emerged as Toronto’s bullpen, es­pe­cially Ryan Tepera, helped the Blue Jays (8-17) earn their first set of back-to-back wins — and first se­ries win — of the sea­son.

Tepera came on in the sec­ond and cruised through 3 1/3 in­nings — Tampa didn’t get a hit un­til Ryan Miller’s lead­off sin­gle in the fifth. He had a ca­reer-high five strike­outs and left with one out in the fifth to a stand­ing ova­tion from the crowd of 42,986 at Rogers Cen­tre.

“Com­ing into the game I had a dif­fer­ent mind­set know­ing I’d have to go mul­ti­ple in­nings,” Tepera said.

“So I told my­self: ‘Stay nice and easy and fluid and don’t over­throw.’ I re­al­ized it’s eas­ier to just stay smooth and go with the de­liv­ery.

“I was able to throw the fourseam up and that was a big key for me to­day. That’s some­thing that I strug­gle with. I ei­ther throw it way too high or it gets in the zone. So just stay­ing nice and easy and ex­e­cut­ing pitches, it helped.”

Sanchez praised his bullpen, which has strug­gled lately, with hold­ing Tampa to one run over eight in­nings.

“To­day (the bullpen) showed every­body who they re­ally are and we got this big win,” Sanchez said. “Great de­fence be­hind them, timely hit­ting.

“It’s tough for me to put these guys through that but it’s just one of those sit­u­a­tions where you didn’t know this was go­ing to hap­pen and they stepped up and did their part.”

Jose Bautista be­gan Toronto’s rally in the bot­tom of the in­ning with his 1,000th hit as a Blue Jay.

“I’ll get to en­joy (the 1,000-hit mile­stone) when my ca­reer’s over,” Bautista said.

“Hope­fully I’ll get some more, but it does bring you back to the long time I’ve been here and the suc­cess that I’ve en­joyed.

“It’s al­ways fun when you can do it when you are con­tribut­ing to a win.”

FRED THORN­HILL, THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Jays catcher Rus­sell Martin, left, and closer Roberto Osuna cel­e­brate af­ter beat­ing Tampa Bay at Rogers Cen­tre in Toronto on Sun­day. The Jays won 3-1, the first time this sea­son they have put to­gether two straight vic­to­ries.

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