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The Curious Case of Jonathan Sanchez and The San Francisco Giants

Bleacher ReportSenior Writer IJuly 11, 2009

I've always been one of Jonathan Sanchez' biggest fans and even my patience has waned as of late.  His stuff is undeniable, but Major League Baseball's graveyard is littered with young phenoms boasting incredible filth and little-to-no reins. 

The first half of the 2009 season had the 26-year-old heading in that direction or to delayed-glory in a new uniform as far as I was concerned.

Well, back up the wagon.  You can consider the lull in our baseball love affair officially over.  I'm back in the frustrating southpaw's corner.

No-hitters will have that effect on some die-hard fans.

I'd never seen a no-hitter thrown by one of my guys—I watched in horror as Terry Mulholland snuffed my boys out in 1990 and then again as Kevin Millwood repeated the feat for those same Philadelphia Phillies in 2003.

In between, Kevin Brown joined the party while tossing for the Florida Marlins in 1997.  Luckily, I missed Kevin Gross turn the trick for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1992.

In the face of all those silent San Francisco frames, I had been beaten senseless.  No-hitters and perfect games never really seemed possible except from other franchises.

I certainly didn't think the first one I'd see—start to finish—would be twirled by Jonathan Sanchez.

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He's the first pitcher to sign the history books in Orange and Black since John "The Count" Montefusco in 1976, the first hurler to do it at home by the Bay since Ed Halicki in 1975, and the first sinister such pitcher since Mike McCormick in 1959.

Of course, the Giants' last Cy Young winner before Tim Lincecum threw "only" five hitless innings so some don't credit that as an official no-no.

If you're from that camp, you've got to go all the way back to the pre-War days of Carl Hubbell in 1929 to find a hitless gem authored by a (New York) Giant left-hander.

So this is no small accomplishment nor milestone in the inchoate career of Jonathan Sanchez.

But I'm not naive enough to believe the Puerto Rican pitcher is totally through the woods.  Although Dave Righetti is a magic man and the alteration to Sanchez' lower half during his approach to the plate clearly worked, it's impossible to turn the corner Jonathan was facing in one start.

It's a huge leap in progress as is the emergence of Eli Whiteside as an exceptional handler of bump talent in the Show.  Still, the youngster has miles to go.

Like I said, it's control and consistency that will be the last pieces to the Jonathan Sanchez puzzle.  And, whoo boy, is he a puzzle.

Consider the following:

1.  Prior to Friday night's gem, Sanchez had thrown up a donut in both the shutout and complete game categories.  For his career.

2.  The start against the San Diego Padres marked a return from exile in the bullpen due to a poor 2009 campaign to date.

3.  Despite his brilliance in limited relief appearances, the deceptive flamethrower didn't "earn" his way back into the rotation.  An injury to Randy Johnson forced Bruce Bochy's hand to exquisite results.

4.  Look at his game log for 2009—when the dust settles, the most astounding stat from Friday might not be the lack of hits, but the nine innings and ZERO walks.  I'm only half kidding.

5.  His father, who'd never seen his son throw in the Bigs, was in the stands.

I don't know what that last one has to do with the others, but it was pretty cool to see shots of Sanchez' father (and possibly a brother?) reacting to every agonizing out in the eighth and ninth.

Plus, his contribution to his son's post-game interview was awesome.

Again, one start—no matter how sublime—can right Jonathan Sanchez' ship.  Nevertheless, he gave a nine-inning tutorial as to why the franchise and some fans have been so patient with him.  Why their excitement has gotten the better of sound judgment at times.

You want domination in a box score?  Here ya go—27 outs, 9 IP, 11 Ks, 0 BBs, 0 hits, 0 ER, and a single baserunner courtesy of Juan Uribe's bobble on an awkward-but-doable hop.

There was also an incredible assist from Aaron Rowand on out No. 26—an ominous drive to center from Edgar Gonzalez that almost planted the Gents lead-off hitter in the padding for a second consecutive day.

It was a nice catch, but the guy on the mound was the star.

I think Duane Kuiper said it best with his typical understated hilarity:  "You know what, [Jonathan Sanchez] might get another start."

Yes Kuip, yes he might.  And let's hope there are many more after that.

**www.pva.org**

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