He had lost just once in his five career starts against the Phillies, and in doing so, posted a dazzling 1.29 ERA in the pair that came at Citizens Bank Park. Wrapped in that success against the Phillies was also the fact that Sanchez hadn't allowed more than four hits in any start against them.
With the stakes raised significantly on Sunday, there would be no such dominance. But credit Sanchez with wiggling out of potential disaster just minutes into his outing and leaving in the seventh with his team still very much within striking distance.
"He really settled down," first baseman Aubrey Huff said. "He gave us a great chance to win."
It didn't appear that would be the case early, as the Giants' bullpen began stirring before Sanchez retired his third batter. He labored through a 35-pitch first inning that featured the odd combination of three walks and three strikeouts.
In between was a costly throwing error by third baseman Mike Fontenot that extended the frame long enough for Jimmy Rollins to draw one of Sanchez's walks, this one with the bases full.
"I couldn't get a breaking ball over the plate," Sanchez said. "I was missing my spots. That was it."
However, three walks and a throwing error totaled just one Philadelphia run, and Sanchez settled in from there. He allowed a go-ahead sacrifice fly in the fifth but left two innings later with the Giants trailing only by one.
"He's effectively wild, but at the same time, he can put two pitches on you and put you in a hole real quick," Phillies outfielder Jayson Werth said. "You need to be aggressive with him and at the same time, selective. The guy is a good pitcher. There's no doubt. Just look at what he's done this year and in years past. We made him work early, and I think that was definitely one of the big parts of the game."
The Phillies had a large hand in ensuring Sanchez's pitch count elevated early. Of the first 14 hitters he faced, only once did one swing at a first pitch. That led to Sanchez falling behind with more-than-desirable frequency.
However, Sanchez never completely caved. He faced only two three-ball counts after the first and finished without issuing another walk. The latter of those two feats was especially notable considering the left-hander allowed a National League-high 96 walks during the regular season.
"They were taking pitches like they did when I pitched against them before," he said, refuting the notion that Philadelphia altered its approach against him this time.
Despite all the first-inning issues, Sanchez threw only 65 more pitches before Roy Oswalt's leadoff single in the seventh ended his second career postseason start. In all, Sanchez allowed five hits and three runs (two earned) in the seven-strikeout start.
"He settled down after that first inning," said the Phillies' Shane Victorino, who doubled and scored off Sanchez in the fifth. "He lasted a little longer than we wanted."