Anibal Sanchez of the Detroit Tigers gets congratulations from his manager after pitching a one-hit shutout against the Minnesota Twins on Friday.
It was looking good for the right-hander to record the season's first no-hitter and second of his career; he had already accomplished the feat back in 2006 with the Florida Marlins.
When Sanchez threw that no-no against the Arizona Diamondbacks, it was the first such feat in the major leagues in over 24 months. Times have changed in recent history, however, as there were seven no-hitters in the league just last season alone.
Let's go back to Friday night's ninth inning. After Jamey Carroll struck out looking, Joe Mauer came to the plate and hit a Sanchez breaking ball right back up the middle for a base knock. Of all the players to break up a no-no, it would be Mauer, as he has a career batting average of .324. This was the third no-hitter Mauer has broken up in the ninth inning in his career.
Sanchez battled back to strike out Josh Willingham and Justin Morneau to close out a one-hit shutout in a 6-0 Tigers victory. It sure was a great outing, but he won't be able to have his name featured on a select list of pitchers with multiple no-nos just yet.
How many no-hitters will be thrown in 2013?
This masterpiece by Sanchez was one of several close calls of no-hitters throughout the season, but there has still yet to be one recorded. Maybe the moment on April 2 (just the third day of the season) when Texas ace Yu Darvish came within just one out of a perfect game was a great foreshadowing of what was to come.
Sanchez needed 130 pitches to get the complete game, and did show some signs of fatigue toward the end of the outing. In an era where the pitch counts of most pitchers are very much watched over and limited, they become a big factor in pitchers being able to close the deal on these rare feats.
Of the seven pitchers to throw no-hitters last season, only two have been up to par this year. That would be Felix Hernandez and Homer Bailey, who are actually the last two pitchers to record no-hitters.
Kevin Millwood (who combined with several relievers on a no-no) is retired from baseball, Philip Humber is in the minor leagues, Johan Santana may never pitch again with shoulder trouble, Matt Cain has given up 13 home runs in 10 starts and Jered Weaver has been on the disabled list for most of the season.
Based on what was just described, it proves that the no-hitter can be somewhat of an anomaly. Sure, there are going to be exceptions (Nolan Ryan being the most glaring), but the feat is not always a good barometer of what kind of pitcher the player really is.
The way pitchers have been starting to dominate more lately, there will no doubt at least be one no-hitter thrown in the 2013 season. Still, it has been almost excruciating to see so many pitchers lose out on that distinction in the seventh inning or later thus far, and will be something to watch closely going forward.