Add another near miss in this 2013 baseball season — this time it was Detroit’s Anibal Sanchez falling just short of a no-hitter.
Sanchez’s bid was broken up with one out in the ninth inning Friday night when Minnesota’s Joe Mauer hit a clean single up the middle. That was the only hit the right-hander allowed in the Tigers’ 6-0 victory over the Twins. It was the fourth one-hitter of Sanchez’s career, to go along a no-hitter he threw as a rookie back in 2006.
”It’s not that I go to the mound and want to do something special, it’s just that I want to go nine innings, go deeper, get a good command, get a good game,” Sanchez said. ”When I come to the eighth inning, I think about it. But when I come to the ninth inning, it’s really tough with those guys.”
After seven no-hitters in 2012, baseball is without one so far this season. There have been plenty of close calls. Before Sanchez, four other pitchers had already thrown one-hitters in 2013, according to STATS. And that doesn’t include Yu Darvish of Texas, Clay Buchholz of Boston and Adam Wainwright of St. Louis, all of whom had no-hitters in the eighth inning or later but couldn’t finish the job.
Darvish came within an out of a perfect game at Houston on April 2. He allowed a hit and didn’t finish the game.
Mauer, meanwhile, is making a habit of playing spoiler. It’s the third time in his career he’s broken up a no-hitter in the ninth inning, according to STATS.
”He’s nasty, and he had everything working tonight,” Mauer said. ”Obviously, you know exactly what is happening, and you don’t want to get no-hit. I’m just up there trying to put the bat on the ball. He threw me a really good cutter and I was just able to square it up.”
It was Sanchez’s second gem in about a month — he set a franchise record with 17 strikeouts in eight marvelous innings against Atlanta on April 26.
Sanchez (5-4) struck out 12 on Friday and allowed three walks – staying remarkably calm on the mound all the while.
”He called me out to the mound. In the middle of a no-hitter,” Tigers catcher Alex Avila said. ”I’ve been in the middle of a no-hitter a few times, in the sixth, seventh inning, I don’t think a pitcher’s ever called me out to the mound. … He just forgot what signs we were using when there’s a guy on second base.”
The home crowd gave Sanchez a standing ovation when he came out to start the ninth, and he immediately struck out Jamey Carroll. Mauer followed with a line drive up the middle – to almost the same spot where Pittsburgh’s Josh Harrison’s hit landed last year when he broke up a no-hit bid by Detroit’s Justin Verlander, also with two outs to go.
Sanchez instinctively reached up for Mauer’s hit, but there was no chance for anyone – least of all the pitcher – to catch it. Sanchez then jerked his head back and spun in frustration, but with a bit of a smile on his face.
”We got the hit, but that doesn’t change anything,” Mauer said. ”He still blew us away.”
After Sanchez struck out the next two hitters to end the game, he shared a hug with Avila. Sanchez threw 130 pitches.
”In the end, it’s the result of my work. I try to figure out, to put my ball in the strike zone,” Sanchez said. ”It’s a nice result, and I take it.”
Jordan Zimmermann of Washington, Chris Sale of the Chicago White Sox, Shelby Miller of St. Louis and Jon Lester of Boston have also thrown one-hitters this season. Matt Harvey of the New York Mets allowed one hit in nine innings against the White Sox on May 7, but that game went 10 innings and he didn’t finish it.
The last-place Twins have lost 10 straight, and their starting lineup against Sanchez included four players hitting .212 or worse. Carroll drew a walk to lead off the game, and Sanchez issued another to Chris Parmelee in the second. Then the 29-year-old Sanchez, acquired by the Tigers from the Miami Marlins at midseason last year, settled into quite a groove.
He fanned Mauer for the third out of the third, then struck out the side the fourth.
Parmelee led off the fifth with a hard grounder up the middle that Sanchez was able to field himself. The following inning, Brian Dozier nearly broke up the no-hit bid when he hit a slow roller to shortstop Jhonny Peralta and almost beat the throw the first.
Sanchez then struck out Carroll and Mauer to end the Minnesota sixth.
With one out in the eighth, the Twins finally got another runner on base when Eduardo Escobar walked. That snapped a streak of 18 straight hitters retired by Sanchez, but he bounced back to retire pinch-hitter Ryan Doumit on a grounder to first. Pinch-hitter Chris Colabello followed, and with the crowd on its feet, he was called out on strikes.
Miguel Cabrera hit a two-run single in the second, upping his RBI total to 57. Don Kelly added a two-run homer the following inning.
Minnesota’s Samuel Deduno (0-1) allowed six runs and nine hits in 5 1-3 innings.
The most recent no-hitter thrown by a Tiger was in 2011, when Verlander tossed the second of his career. The Twins were no-hit last year by Jered Weaver of the Los Angeles Angels.
NOTES: Sanchez’s no-hitter as a rookie came Sept. 6, 2006, against Arizona. He was pitching for the Marlins then. … Sanchez threw 121 pitches before being taken out of his 17-strikeout game against the Braves, but there was no way manager Jim Leyland was pulling him Friday while the no-hit bid was in progress.