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Sanchez comes alive in second half

Sanchez comes alive in second half

SAN DIEGO -- For all that Freddy Sanchez endured during the first half of the season, he closed the year in much the way he had hoped it would have gone all along.

Lingering shoulder pain kept Sanchez out most of Spring Training, and though he refused to use it as an excuse for his early struggles, Sanchez looked noticeably affected by the layoff.

A .213 batting average in April was followed by .258 in May and a .204 mark in June. And while the shoulder pain was solely a bother defensively at that point, Sanchez's slow start had gotten him so impatient at the plate at times that his approach took a hit.

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Sanchez and hitting coach Don Long worked to align Sanchez's upper and lower halves in his swing, and once Sanchez found that consistency in his approach, the 2006 National League batting champ rediscovered his form.

"He's really concentrated on one approach in the second half," manager John Russell said. "He's not swinging at as many pitches out of the zone. When he does that, he has such a great ability to put the bat to the ball. I think he made a big commitment to really stay within himself, and the numbers show."

Since the All-Star break, Sanchez has posted a .348 average, the third-highest mark in the league heading into the final day of the season. The second-half surge has masked much of those first-half woes, as Sanchez's average has crept up from .226 to .271 since the mid-July break.

The second baseman also will take an 83-game consecutive errorless streak into next season, assuming he does not commit a defensive gaffe in Sunday's season finale. After making seven errors in the first two months of the season, Sanchez has been perfect in the field since May 29.

His .989 fielding percentage is second-best in the NL, behind Cincinnati's Brandon Phillips (.990). Phillips, too, committed a league-low seven errors this year.

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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