The final member of the trio is an unlikely one if we’re thinking about this season with Spring Training brain, or even casual baseball fan brain. Cristopher Sánchez is the third and final catalyst of the team making it back to the postseason.
Sánchez started the season competing for a spot on the roster. It didn't matter where it was, either the bullpen or the starting rotation. Sánchez was gunning for a secure spot in the majors. He was given a chance because the back end of the Phillies' rotation was not set in stone due to injuries and inconsistency.
Of course, it’s difficult to leave off ace Zack Wheeler because without him where would the team be? At the same time, Wheeler is expected to carry, shove, wheel, deal and dazzle as one of the best pitchers in baseball.
The marginal players matter just as much as the stars because it all catches up to a team in a 162-game season. Sánchez stepping up represents the outcome good teams get when they’re looking for an answer. Wheeler was in consideration, but the stopgap nature of Sánchez, especially in June and July, gave him the final spot on this list.
Sánchez has pedestrian numbers if you look at the stats in a vacuum. This young guy in his third stint with the Phillies has a win-loss record of 3-5, an ERA of 3.44, 96 strikeouts and 16 walks in 99 1/3 innings pitched.
If one zooms out, then they’ll see that Sánchez provided stability and hope after top pitching prospect Andrew Painter was sidelined. He emerged before the Michael Lorenzen trade and filled the hole from earlier in the season when Bailey Falter and Matt Strahm were given shots as the fifth starter.
Sánchez was able to provide the most value in June and July. He posted a sub-2.50 ERA in both months. The lanky, left-handed pitcher proved to be serviceable in every one of his June and July starts, as he went at least five innings and didn’t allow more than three runs.
A huge pick-me-up for a team with the expectation of a mashing offense is that Sánchez put them in a position to win games. The team didn’t win most of those games, but Sanchez demonstrated how he can help the team.
He showed that he knew how to pitch, giving the front office more time to find added starting depth (which they eventually did) and eating up innings instead of the bullpen. That last part is paramount, as a fully equipped, rested bullpen has been one of the biggest factors in winning the World Series for the past decade.