If not for an eighth-inning bobble, he could've been perfect.
The San Francisco 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.
Gold Glove center fielder Aaron Rowand saved the gem with a leaping catch at the center-field fence to rob pinch-hitter Edgar Gonzalez for the second out of the ninth inning.
"I was watching the whole time. I thought it was gone," Sanchez 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, Sirgfredo, 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.
Among the first to congratulate Sanchez was 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 said his father was visiting from Puerto Rico and arrived in San Francisco on Thursday night. When the pitcher came off the field, his dad was among those waiting in the dugout to congratulate him, and 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 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. The Big Unit himself was quick to congratulate his fellow southpaw.
Sanchez had a five-start winless stretch earlier 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 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.
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.
Bochy greeted Sanchez near the third base line, followed by a stream of teammates and coaches who shook hands and hugged the hard-throwing lefty.
The celebration continued into the dugout as fans remained standing and cheering.
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.
The last no-hitter in San Francisco was pitched by Florida's Kevin Brown of San Diego on June 10, 1997, at Candlestick Park -- so this was the first at the Giants' 10-year-old waterfront ballpark.
Pablo 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 was expecting a baby.
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.