Sanchez makes most of opportunity, throws no-hitter in front of father

SAN FRANCISCO -- On a night when Jonathan Sanchez was nearly perfect, his father chose the perfect time to show up in San Francisco and cheer him.

The Giants left-hander threw the majors' first no-hitter of the season Friday night and came within a whisper of a perfect game. The only runner to reach against him in an 8-0 victory over the San Diego Padres came on an error by third baseman Juan Uribe with one out in the eighth.

Sanchez's dad, Sirgfredo, watched nervously from the stands, bouncing and biting his nails, then scurried down to the dugout to be among the first to congratulate the pitcher.

"Right now I'm just going to go home and hang out with my dad," Sanchez said. "I was pumped that he was here watching the game."

Sanchez almost lost his no-hit bid in the ninth, but Gold Glove center fielder Aaron Rowand saved the gem with a leaping grab at the center-field fence to rob pinch-hitter Edgar Gonzalez for the second out.

"I was going to go up and over and land on the other side of the fence if I had to, to try to make the catch," Rowand said.

The 26-year-old Sanchez (3-8) returned to the rotation after a nearly three-week demotion to the bullpen -- and only got the call because 303-game winner Randy Johnson went on the disabled list this week with a shoulder injury.

With his father and a friend cheering from the stands, Sanchez threw a called third strike past Everth Cabrera to finish his first career complete game. Sanchez walked toward the plate and thrust his arms in the air as catcher Eli Whiteside rushed in for a big hug and the Giants poured out of their dugout.

Also offering their congratulations were Johnson, the last major leaguer to throw a perfect game, and Giants pitching coach Dave Righetti, who tossed a no-hitter for the New York Yankees on July 4, 1983.

Sanchez's father is visiting from Puerto Rico and arrived in San Francisco on Thursday night. When the pitcher came off the field, the two shared a long embrace before Sanchez jogged back onto the field and tipped his cap to the cheering crowd.

"This is a gift for him," said Sanchez, who struck out a career-high 11. "I feel awesome."

It was the Giants' 13th no-hitter and first since John Montefusco did it on Sept. 29, 1976, at Atlanta. Their last one in San Francisco came when Ed Halicki beat the New York Mets in the second game of a doubleheader on Aug. 24, 1975.

The Padres were no-hit for the seventh time and first since Bud Smith blanked them 4-0 for St. Louis on Sept. 3, 2001.

Sanchez did it on 110 pitches, 77 for strikes. After the final one, Whiteside came rushing with a hug, followed moments later by all their teammates.

Sanchez, who won for the first time since May 25, had a five-start winless stretch this season in which he went 0-4. He told The Associated Press two days earlier that he hadn't lost his confidence in his ability to pitch and be a starter in the major leagues -- and manager Bruce Bochy hadn't lost faith, either.

"They gave me a second chance. You see what happened tonight," Sanchez said.

Sanchez wasn't blaming Uribe for the error that cost him a shot at a perfect game.

"It's the game. It can happen," Sanchez said. "I could have given up a hit, too. It doesn't matter. I just want to win."

Uribe wasn't part of the extended celebration in the Giants' clubhouse after the game. As is usually the case, he left quickly.

"I think tomorrow would be a better time to kid around with him," teammate Rich Aurilia said. "In the history of the game there are just so many perfect games. It may never occur again. I know it doesn't happen a lot."

There have been 15 perfect games in major league history. Johnson tossed the most recent one on May 18, 2004, for Arizona at Atlanta.

After the sixth inning, San Francisco manager Bruce Bochy removed third baseman Pablo Sandoval because of a sore back. He put Kevin Frandsen in at second and shifted Uribe from second to third.

Sanchez struck out the side in the seventh and Adrian Gonzalez hit a long drive to left in the eighth before Headley's grounder to Uribe, who finished with three hits and an RBI at the plate.

"He did everything to make that play," Aurilia said. "You have to remember he just moved over from second, where he'd been the last three weeks. That's not an easy hop. I know, I've played the position. Just think, he was one in-between hop away from a perfect game. We still saw something special tonight. Juan will contribute in the second half."

Sanchez pitched the first no-hitter in the majors since Carlos Zambrano for the Chicago Cubs against the Houston Astros in Milwaukee on Sept. 14, 2008. That game was relocated from Houston to Miller Park because of Hurricane Ike.

Sanchez's father and friend stood nervously -- with the rest of the crowd of 30,298 at AT&T Park on a cool night in the Bay Area -- and his dad couldn't look at the end. But Sanchez's dad quickly got down to the dugout to congratulate a pitcher who made his 51st major league start the most special of his career after months of struggles.

"Felicidades!" -- congratulations -- fans yelled in the tunnel outside the San Francisco clubhouse as Sanchez signed autographs.

Cabrera, the last batter of the game, squared to bunt on the first pitch -- bringing a chorus of boos from the crowd. Sanchez then froze Cabrera with a breaking ball, setting a career-high with his 11th strikeout. Cabrera protested the call, looking at plate umpire Brian Runge in disbelief.

"On film he throws the ball hard, but it looks like he doesn't know where it's going," San Diego's Tony Gwynn Jr. said. "Today he looked exactly like he knew where it was going."

Sanchez finished the Giants' major league-leading 13th shutout of the year, following All-Star and reigning NL Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum's no-hit bid into the seventh inning a night earlier against San Diego.

"I think if you looked at the staff, he wouldn't be the one you picked," Bochy said. "He came out throwing 94-96 [mph]. He just had incredible stuff."

The last no-hitter in San Francisco was pitched by Florida's Kevin Brown on June 10, 1997, at Candlestick Park -- so this was the first at the Giants' 10-year-old waterfront ballpark.

Sandoval hit a three-run homer to center off Josh Banks (1-1) in the fifth. Rowand also had three RBIs.

Uribe and Whiteside had RBI singles in a four-run second inning. Rowand added a two-run single.

Whiteside started in place of regular catcher Bengie Molina, whose wife went into labor Friday.

Game notes
It was the first no-hitter by a Giants lefty since Hall of Famer Carl Hubbell pitched one for the New York Giants against Pittsburgh on May 8, 1929. ... A 27th-round draft pick in 2004, Sanchez pitched four no-hitters in college for NAIA Ohio Dominican.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this story.