A Real Twist Of Fate: Jonathan Sanchez Throws a No-Hitter

E ASenior Analyst IJuly 11, 2009

SAN FRANCISCO - MAY 14:  Jonathan Sanchez #57 of the San Francisco Giants looks on after a wild pitch that scored a run in the third innin against the New York Mets during a Major League Baseball game on May14, 2009 at AT&T Park in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)

Last night was a wild ride for Jonathan Sanchez. Little did he know before last nights game between San Francisco and San Diego, he would be making history. It was a night of many firsts.

It was the first time that Sanchez' father was in attendance for one of his games. It would be the greatest game that Sanchez would, and that his father would see.

At the end of the night, the no-no would mark the first complete game, shutout, and no-hitter of Sanchez' young career. Furthermore, a few pitchers have come close, but this would also become the first no-hitter thrown by anyone in baseball this year.

It almost became the first perfect game in Major League Baseball since Randy Johnson, scheduled to start last nights game, threw one in 2004. Almost.

Sanchez wasn't even scheduled to start the game.

Suffering his share of inconsistencies this season and getting off to a wild start, Sanchez was recently demoted to the bullpen for the Gigantes, who have a loaded pitching staff. Surrounded by trade rumors, Sanchez' Giants days appeared numbered.

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Although one night won't make those trade rumors go away, Sanchez did his best to make it a night to remember.

With Randy Johnson a late scratch, Sanchez got the start on short notice against the hapless San Diego Padres, who were held hitless the previous night until the seventh inning by Tim Lincecum.

Coming into this start, Sanchez was 2-8, with a 5.30 ERA and was costing the Giants over a win per game given his -1.24 WPA, or Win Probability Added (or Subtracted).

Having never thrown a shutout or complete game with the Giants, it would become something very out of the ordinary. Little did any of the 30,298 fans in attendance know that they were going to see the Padres fall victim to their sixth no-hitter-against in franchise history.

Sanchez got off to a good start in the first inning. After a weak grounder by by Everth Cabrera, Sanchez got Kouzmanoff and Gwynn out on strikes. After mowing down the middle of the Padres lineup in order, Sanchez got four runs in bottom of the second inning.

After this, the game went smoothly for both pitchers. Josh Banks of the Padres settled down and didn't allow any more runs over the next two innings, and Sanchez continued his brilliance against San Diego's miserable offense.

Sanchez struck out a pair in the fifth, getting through five frames of perfection. The Giants offense added more runs for Sanchez, thanks to a three-run homer for Pablo Sandoval, which almost landed with a splash into McCovey Cove.

Leading off the top of the sixth was former Giants' catcher Eliezer Alfonzo. Alfonzo struck out swinging on just three pitches. After a six-pitch battle with two outs in the inning, Sanchez retired Edgar Gonzalez, who looked at the third strike.

With six innings of perfect ball under his belt, Sanchez was three innings away from throwing the first perfect game since, ironically, Randy Johnson, who was scheduled to start instead of Sanchez last night.

With three innings to go, Sanchez got into a zone, zeroing in on his target of perfection. With a seven run lead, which can put some players in a position to lose focus on the game, Sanchez struck out the side in the seventh inning.

Two innings to go.

In the eighth inning, Adrian Gonzalez led off with a deep fly ball to left, handled by the left fielder John Bowker.

However, with one out, manager Bruce Bochy would come to regret the double-switch he made in the seventh, taking out Pablo Sandoval, putting Kevin Frandsen at second base, and moving Juan Uribe to third.

After Adrian Gonzalez nearly hit a solo home run to start the inning but flied out, Chase Headley dribbed a very routine ground ball to Juan Uribe at third base. The ball bounced off of Uribe, who proceeded to bobble the ball in an attempt to recover the play.

The perfecto was gone because Headley was able to shoot a ball toward a defensively inept third baseman.

Sanchez kept going. After a wild pitch and a flyout, he was able to get Eliezer Alfonzo for a swinging strikeout to get through the eighth inning. Sanchez was on the threshold of history.

Just three outs away from tossing the first no-hitter by a Giants pitcher since John Montefusco handled the Atlanta Braves in September of 1976, one can only imagine how nervous Sanchez was as he came out on the mound for the ninth inning.

Luis Rodriguez, Edgar Gonzalez, and Everth Cabrera. Those were the final three batters due up for the ninth inning.

Rodriguez grounded out on three pitches. Two outs away.

On a 2-0 count to Gonzalez, everyone watching the game collectively held their breath. It was a fly ball, hit deep to left center. Said one of the play-by-play announcers:

"To center field, hit well, hit very well, Rowand on the move, ROWAND MAKES THE CATCH! Two down in the ninth!"

In what was perhaps the catch of the year, Rowand tracked down the fly ball all the way to the fence, making a leaping grab while crash-landing into the wall. This no-hitter was not coming to an end if his glove had anything to say about it.

Everth Cabrera came to the plate with two outs in the ninth inning.

Sanchez delivers the first pitch, a ball out of the zone.

Another ball.

On the third pitch, Cabrera takes a called strike, and fouls off the fourth to even the count at 2-2.

Delivering an absolutely disgusting pitch, Sanchez rings up Cabrera with a backwards K in the box score, topping off his no-hitter.

It may not change the fact that Sanchez could be trade bait as the Giants look to acquire a big bat, but this outing was definitely the highlight of his career so far. Congratulations, Jonathan Sanchez, for crafting a superb start last night!