When devising a game plan to combat one of the best hitting lineups in the International League, Buffalo Bisons’ catcher Tony Sanchez knew he had a huge advantage in Wade LeBlanc.
The 31-year-old left-hander has been one of the most consistent pitchers for the Herd through the first month of the season. And Sanchez was ready to put the pitcher’s strengths to good use.
LeBlanc pitched seven scoreless innings at Coca-Cola Field Saturday afternoon, leading the Bisons to a 2-1 win over the Syracuse Chiefs.
LeBlanc (3-1) credited his latest success to following the lead of his catcher.
“You just go off of Tony behind the plate,” LeBlanc said. “He does a good job of recognizing what guys are trying to do and then keeping them guessing from there. I like working both” Sanchez and A.J. Jimenez. “They understand what you’re trying to do as a pitcher. They understand your strengths and a guy’s strength can change from day to day from game to game so they’re both really good on picking up what’s working and sticking with it.”
LeBlanc’s strength on Saturday?
“Strikes,” he said with a laugh. “That’s all I got.”
But it was the way LeBlanc got his strikes that was most impressive. He used four different pitches and was locating the ball well, which gave Sanchez a ton of options when facing a Syracuse lineup that had torched the Herd for 19 runs in the previous two games.
“With Wade anytime he comes out he’s got four pitches he can throw for strikes and against a lineup like that which obviously can swing the bat a little bit, you’re going need that to have success,” Sanchez said.
“Wade came out he threw strikes with his cutter on both sides of the plate, we back-doored it, front-hipped it. He threw strikes with his breaking ball. He threw it down when we needed a punch-out. He threw it up when we needed strikes. He located the fastball both sides of the plate and his changeup was there every time we called for it really. If we needed a swing-and-miss or we needed a ground ball, the change up was there. That was probably one out of three options we could have used and for me as a catcher it just makes my life a lot easier when I have confidence in four options against a lineup like that.”
The Bisons were on their way to just their second shutout win of the season in the ninth. Reliever Chad Jenkins had given up a base hit but had two outs with Trea Turner at the plate to pinch hit. Turner, one of the best hitters in the league and a top prospect in the Washington Nationals organization, struck out swinging. Only Sanchez missed catching the ball. It went to the backstop and Turner reached on a passed ball. A single by Brendan Ryan broke the shutout bid and cost Jenkins the save as Colt Hynes came in to get the final out.
“Chad was throwing the heck out of the ball,” Sanchez said. “It had a lot of run and the ball kicked off the side of my mitt. I didn’t keep my eyes on it long enough and I got lazy back there and the ball kicked off my glove. … I know Chad knows he got that moral save but I wanted it to be in the books for him. For his confidence that would have been huge. There’s nothing I can do about that now the biggest and most important thing was we got that win.”