BURBANK — After nine seasons, 844 Major League Baseball games and 3,161 at-bats, Freddy Sanchez is finally getting the opportunity to compete in the postseason for the first time.
Sanchez, a Burbank High graduate who attended Glendale Community College, is in the midst of the National League Division Series against the Atlanta Braves.
The Giants began the best-of- five series Thursday at home. Sanchez went hitless in four plate appearances in San Francisco’s 1-0 home victory against the Braves.
Giant’s pitcher Tim Lincecum proved to be the star for the Giants, as he right-hander struck out 14 and allowed two hits in a 119-pitch performance. His strikeout total set a new Giants postseason mark.
Sanchez notched his first playoff hit and scored his first run during Game Two Friday.
However, Atlanta Braves rallied for three runs in the top of the eighth inning to tie the game and won it, 5-4, on an 11th-inning solo homer by Rick Ankiel.
The series will shift to Atlanta for the third game Sunday. If-necessary fourth and fifth games, would be held Monday in Atlanta and Wednesday in San Francisco. The winner will face the Philadelphia Phillies or Cincinnati Reds in the championship series.
Sanchez came through with a clutch run-scoring single Sunday to lead the Giants to a 3-0 victory against the visiting San Diego Padres. The Giants captured the National League’s West Division championship.
“I’ve never been here before and you can’t put into words what this feels like,” Sanchez, a 32-year-old second baseman, told mlb.com. “I’m a real energetic guy, I get fired, up, and when we were able to go up when [Huff] was able to drive me in, I was excited.”
Sanchez, who was acquired by San Francisco from the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2009, did his part to help erase the Giants’ playoff drought, which extended to 2003. In the third inning, San Francisco pitcher Jonathan Sanchez tripled before Freddy Sanchez came up and singled to make it 1-0. Sanchez, a three-time All-Star and former NL batting champion, then scored on a double by Aubrey Huff to make it 2-0 and celebrated all the way into the dugout.
Huff also made it to the playoffs for the first time in an 11-year career.
“Just seeing their faces, it looks like a bunch of 12-year-old kids at the Little League World Series,” said rookie catcher Buster Posey to the San Jose Mercury News. “How often are you going to see 32-, 33-year-old men with these types of expressions on their faces?
“It just doesn’t happen.”
Sanchez hit safely in seven of his last 10 regular-season games. In that stretch, Sanchez recorded five multiple-hit games for the Giants, who edged the Padres by two games for the league title and will look to win the franchise’s first championship since 1954 when they resided in New York.
Sanchez finished the regular season batting .292 (126 for 431) with seven home runs and 47 runs batted in despite beginning the campaign on the disabled list. Sanchez also collected 22 doubles, one triple, three stolen bases and scored 55 runs.
He also proved once again to be reliable with the glove. Sanchez finished with a sparkling .991 fielding percentage. He committed four errors in 458 chances. Sanchez recorded 256 assists and 198 put outs in 109 games.
Still, he battled injury problems just as recently as last week when he was taking anti-inflammatory injections to combat his strained right shoulder. And throughout his tenure with the Giants, the trade that brought him to San Francisco was often criticized with Sanchez routinely sidelined by injuries. But just as he waited this long for the postseason, the Giants are happy their wait paid off, as well.
“We had to wait for Freddy a little,” Giants Manager Bruce Bochy told the Mercury News, “but he was worth the wait.”