Sanchez, who missed all of spring training and the first 38 games of the regular season recovering from shoulder surgery, hit a tiebreaking, two-run single with two outs in the seventh inning to cap a three-run rally and lift San Francisco to a 5-4 win over Washington on Thursday.
"Those are the situations that you want to be in as a player," Sanchez said after emerging from a nearly hour-long post-game workout. "You're not always going to get it done but when you do it feels good. Hopefully we can get something going here and build off this."
Before going 2 for 2 with two walks and providing the game-winning hit against the Nationals, Sanchez had been hitting only .192 since being reinstated from the disabled list on May 19 while San Francisco had lost six of seven.
But the second baseman obtained in a trade from Pittsburgh last July broke out both offensively and defensively, helping turn a pair of double plays.
"We needed somebody to pick us up and he certainly did today," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "He did miss a lot of time but he came back with a lot of energy and picked us up. When he's out there, he can do a lot of things. His track record shows it."
Sanchez also shook off a frightening moment when Maxwell, attempting to steal second, slid in head first while his right leg kicked up behind him and hit Sanchez in the face. The game was halted briefly as Giants trainer Dave Groeschner raced out from the dugout and examined Sanchez before play resumed.
"His cleat caught me in the face," Sanchez said. "Just one of those freak incidents. Thank God it wasn't anything serious."
The Giants bounced back nicely a night after ace and reigning two-time NL Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum was roughed up in a 7-3 loss.
Aubrey Huff hit a solo home run and Santiago Casilla (1-0) got two outs for the win in relief of starter Barry Zito. Guillermo Mota pitched one scoreless inning while Brian Wilson worked the ninth for his 12th save in 13 chances.
John Bowker started the comeback when he reached on an error by Washington first baseman Adam Dunn leading off the seventh against Nationals' starter Craig Stammen. Bowker took second on a passed ball, moved to third on a groundout, then scored on pinch-hitter Nate Schierholtz's RBI single. Andres Torres followed with a double to move Schierholtz to third before Sanchez's second hit of the game drove in both runners.
Dunn hit his 10th homer of the season but was denied No. 11 after umpires used instant replay to uphold their original ruling.
"We really got into trouble in the seventh," Nationals manager Jim Riggleman said. "There's certainly some bad luck involved but that always goes both ways. Collectively, all of us, could have done a little something else to win that ballgame and it's good to be feeling that way."
Though Zito struggled with his command and didn't factor in the decision, San Francisco overcame an early two-run deficit -- not to mention several bursts of rain showers -- to win for only the second time in eight games.
Zito, who had lost two of his previous three starts, gave up two home runs and walked five. The lefty, who had previously only allowed one homer, scattered seven hits over 6 1/3 innings with three strikeouts and was charged with all four Washington runs.
Washington starter Craig Stammen gave up three runs and five hits in 6 1/3 innings, remaining winless since April 19.
The Nationals took a 3-1 lead early and appeared to add to it when Dunn lofted a high fly to right-center field. The ball bounced off the top of the wall in right-center before bouncing back onto the field.
Dunn rounded first then appeared to slow into a home run trot before stopping at second when first base umpire Casey Moser ruled the ball in play. After Riggleman came out to argue the call, Moser met with the other three umpires and the quartet left the field to watch the replay before returning with their ruling.
The Giants recalled RHP Waldis Joaquin from Triple-A Fresno before the game in an attempt to fortify their leaky bullpen with LHP Jeremy Affeldt unable to pitch for several days because of a sore left hamstring. INF Matt Downs was optioned to Fresno to make room for Joaquin. ... INF Ryan Rohlinger was also added to the roster, replacing Edgar Renteria, who was put on the 15-day DL with a strained right hamstring.