If you were ranking the various Giants' chances, earlier this week, of throwing a no-hitter, I'm guessing that Jonathan Sanchez wouldn't have been near the top of your list.
After all, Sanchez had the highest ERA (5.30) in the rotation, he'd won only two games all season (2-8) and he'd never thrown a complete game -- let alone a shutout -- in 50 career starts.
But wait, it gets worse (or better, depending on your affection for irony): Sanchez had recently been yanked from the rotation. After five starts in which Sanchez went 0-4 with a 7.23 ERA, he was exiled to the bullpen, from where he came up with a pair of impressive outings. Might this youngster with the big arm and the lousy control be better suited for relief work?
Sanchez got another shot in the rotation Friday night, though, because Randy Johnson went on the DL earlier this week. For some reason -- the story will be written, I'm sure -- Sanchez's father picked this exact time to fly in from Puerto Rico and see his son pitch in the majors. For the first time. Which made for some good camera shots during the game, and a great moment in the dugout afterward.
Two things that make Sanchez's feat just a bit less surprising:
1. He does strike out a lot of hitters; he's got the second-highest strikeout rate on the staff, behind only Tim Lincecum (who carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning just 24 hours earlier); and
2. The Padres really, really can't hit. The Diamondbacks are hitting .245 this season, second worst in the National League and 12 points below the league average. The Padres are hitting .234 this season.
We can make too much of the Padres' anemia, though. They play their home games in the toughest park for hitters in the majors. In road games, they're middle of the pack in batting average, etc.
Bottom line, Sanchez threw a great game. His slider reminded me of Oliver Perez's old (good) slider, which used to remind me of Randy Johnson's old (great) slider. To close the seventh, Kevin Kouzmanoff struck out on a slider that actually hit him in the foot.
What does it all mean? I don't care. I'm just grateful for the chance to watch the last three innings. Maybe Sanchez gets hammered in his next start. Maybe the Giants trade him (he's been discussed as trade bait for most of the season). Tonight, though, none of that matters.
I do want to mention (again) how much I like the Giants' TV broadcasters, Duane Kuiper and Mike Krukow. Particularly Krukow. When Sanchez came to bat in the bottom of the eighth, Krukow said
- Well, Tim Flannery has nicknamed Jonathan Sanchez "the Spaniard." And in that movie, "Gladiator," there's that one line that says, "Spaniard, you win the crowd, you win your freedom," and he's really won the crowd tonight.
What we don't know yet is what else Sanchez has won. But again, that's a discussion for another day. Let's just enjoy this moment.