But Sanchez still has not minted production from his promise, for the most part. He has ample time to realize his potential, since he's beginning only his second full year as a Giants starter at age 26. Yet inconsistency sticks to Sanchez more than progress. That at least partly explained his stunningly somber appearance after he allowed five runs and six hits in five innings to the Dodgers.
"I'm not getting my job done," said Sanchez (1-3), whose 4.78 ERA is higher than that of any Giants starter except Randy Johnson (5.68). But with 283 more career victories than Sanchez and a ticket punched for Hall of Fame induction, Johnson has earned considerable leeway.
Of Sanchez's five starts, just one has been a "quality" outing (three earned runs or fewer allowed in at least six innings). That ratio ultimately will prompt a demotion, either to the bullpen or Triple-A Fresno. The Giants' braintrust hasn't hinted at either, particularly since the organization has no tempting starters at Fresno (ex-reliever Billy Sadler might be the best option). Moreover, the front office refuses to rush top pitching prospect Madison Bumgarner, who was recently promoted to Double-A Connecticut, to the Majors at this time.
So for the foreseeable future, Sanchez will continue to grope for steadiness. His inability to repeat his delivery and find a steady release point has been an issue. Saturday, he admitted that his front shoulder was "flying open" at times against the Dodgers, another mechanical flaw. Gifted with sharp breaking pitches as well as a crackling fastball, Sanchez complained that he couldn't throw the former for strikes, which doomed him against the Dodgers.
Another factor, poor judgment, threw Sanchez off his axis immediately. Juan Pierre, the first batter Sanchez faced, smashed a comebacker that caromed off his glove and into short left field for a double. Pierre, Manny Ramirez's replacement in left field who's hitting .405, came around to score Los Angeles' first run.
"I should have let it go," Sanchez said. "That was going to be an easy play for [shortstop Edgar] Renteria."
The other Giants floundered just as much as Sanchez. San Francisco mustered four hits off Dodgers left-hander Eric Stults (4-1), who recorded his second career shutout. Stults retired the first 13 hitters he faced before Aaron Rowand doubled. Stults received plenty of help from center fielder Matt Kemp, who made three running catches, two of which robbed Randy Winn of possible hits.
By contrast, the Dodgers amassed 11 hits, including five doubles.
"It was pretty simple today," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said, explaining the outcome. "[Stults] pitched; they swung the bats; we didn't."
The Giants, 3-3 on their trip entering Sunday's finale of the three-city journey, also didn't play the quality defense upon which they must rely.
Los Angeles added three runs in the second inning on Juan Castro's RBI double and Pierre's two-run double. The first was a ball that barely eluded left fielder Fred Lewis; the second scooted by Lewis before Rowand kicked it on the warning track for an error, though that didn't generate additional Dodgers runs.
Neither did Kemp's fifth-inning RBI single, though the Giants looked bad as he got caught in a rundown but scrambled back safely to first base. Third baseman Juan Uribe's bobble of a potential double-play ball in the eighth opened the door for three more Dodgers runs.
Lewis, who has looked unsteady at times in the outfield, said that Castro's hit "died" before he could reach it and testified that he had no chance to cut off Pierre's hit. Asked if he was disappointed in his fielding, Lewis replied, "No. I'm not disappointed at all. Why should I be? I bounce back every day."
Bochy defended Lewis by saying, "He's working on it and that's all we can do -- keep working on our defense. That has to be a big part of your game, but I don't think there was something that Freddy didn't do today."
But overall, Bochy acknowledged, "this was an ugly game for us everywhere. We didn't do too much right today."