Ex-Giant Jonathan Sanchez recalls tough stretch that led to no-hitter

Ex-Giant Jonathan Sanchez recalls tough stretch that led to no-hitter

Programming note: Watch the re-air of Jonathan Sanchez's no-hitter against the San Diego Padres tonight at 8 p.m. PT on NBC Sports Bay Area.

There's nothing quite like the anticipation that builds in a ballpark during a no-hitter, the tension in every chest as those final innings tick down, the simultaneous release from a pitcher, his teammates and 40,000 strangers when the 27th out is made. No matter the team's record or the pitcher's background, it is a special day, in part because it so often comes out of nowhere.

For the Giants, Tim Lincecum's two no-hitters were pitched far from the peak of his powers. He never no-hit an opponent during his Cy Young days, but twice did it when a diminished fastball relegated him to the back of the rotation. A year after Lincecum's second one, Chris Heston no-hit the Mets in the middle of what would be his only season in a big league rotation.

Madison Bumgarner never pitched a no-hitter for the Giants, but Matt Moore came within an out of one, and Yusmeiro Petit was a few inches from a perfect game.

Those historic games appear out of nowhere, and Jonathan Sanchez's no-hitter in 2009 was as unexpected as it gets.

Sanchez, then 26, struggled so much with his command in the first half of that year that Ryan Sadowski replaced him in the rotation near the end of June. Sanchez was furious. He didn't consider himself a reliever, but he had been unable to find clarity on the mound that season. His mind was filled with thoughts that the Giants, an up-and-coming team, would send him back to Triple-A at any moment.

"I was pitching with that in my mind all the time," Sanchez told Amy Gutierrez of NBC Sports Bay Area. "I never want to be in the bullpen. I was kind of mad they put me in the bullpen."

Life as a reliever would be short-lived. The lefty made two scoreless relief appearances before Bruce Bochy and Dave Righetti called him into the office. Randy Johnson had injured his shoulder and Sanchez would be plugged back into the rotation on July 10 against the Padres.

Sanchez struck out 11 while no-hitting the Padres that night. For a while, a no-hitter of the Padres became pretty common around the organization, but when Sanchez got that 27th out, he became the first Giant to complete a no-hitter since John Montefusco in 1976. The Giants would go on to have a no-hitter or perfect game in four consecutive seasons, but Sanchez's was just the 13th in franchise history at the time. During an interview this week with Gutierrez, Sanchez said he's still not sure what clicked that night.

"I went out there, and I don't know what happened," he said. "I really don't know what I did out there. I still don't know what happened."

Sanchez said Bochy and Righetti had told him he would get about 60 pitches in his return to the rotation. He took the mound with a mindset to go pitch by pitch, inning by inning. He wanted to challenge every hitter.

"I passed my 60 pitches and they didn't know what to do," he recalled. "They said, we can't get him out. Let him pitch until he gives up a hit, and that never happened."

The no-hitter was an early sign of what was to come for the organization. The Giants would win the World Series the next year, with Sanchez playing a key role. There would be two more titles after that, and a string of historic nights in the regular season.

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But at the time, Sanchez wasn't thinking far down the line. He was simply pitching angry, trying to prove that he deserved a rotation spot. He felt the situation was so dire that he had called his father, Sigredo, and told him to take some time off work and fly to San Francisco. Sigredo Sanchez had seen his son pitch in the big leagues just once before. He was hesitant to make the trip, but his son needed a familiar face.

"We sat down the night before and started talking," Jonathan Sanchez said. "I think he gave me the strength to be out there and pitch and be more brave and do what I had to do to pitch a great game for Giants fans and us."

Bruce Bochy reveals favorite Madison Bumgarner memory as Giants manager


Bruce Bochy reveals favorite Madison Bumgarner memory as Giants manager

Bruce Bochy spent a lot of time with Madison Bumgarner over the last decade. San Francisco's former manager was there in the dugout for Bumgarner's MLB debut and his last game as a Giant. 

Despite all of Bumgarner's World Series heroics, it's fitting that Bochy's favorite memory of the former Giants ace comes off the field. And it's about bear hunting of all things.

"Well my favorite -- I'm pausing for a second because I can't tell my favorite," Bochy recently said to ESPN's Buster Olney on the "Baseball Tonight Podcast." "It's a bear hunting trip and I swore to secrecy on that. Hopefully he'll let me tell it one day." 

Bochy's favorite Bumgarner story certainly fits, too. It's more about the left-hander's unmatched mentality than anything else. 

"On the baseball side, my favorite of course is 2014," Bochy said. "The incredible run that he had between the wild-card game and of course what he did in Game 7 [of the World Series]. It was after Game 5, he had just shut out the Royals and I had switched it a little bit, because I felt like we just had to go into Kansas City up a game instead of down a game.

"I was taking some heat for not pitching him in Game 4 and then starting him in Game 7, but [Ryan] Vogelsong started Game 4 against their fifth starter and I wanted Bumgarner to pitch against [James] Shields." 

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It clearly was the right decision to start Bumgarner in Game 5. He threw a complete game shutout in San Francisco while striking out eight in a 4-1 Giants win. What he did in Bochy's office before traveling to Kansas City, was even more vintage MadBum. 

"He shuts out the Royals and now we're going to Kansas City. We're up 3-2, we're a game away from being the World Series champions and guys are starting to pack because we've got to go to KC and he comes into my office," Bochy said. "He goes, 'You know I just wanna tell you, if you wanna win this thing, you're gonna put me out there. You're gonna start me.' I says, 'Start you when?' And he goes, 'After [my] day off.' He meant Game 6.

"I said, 'No, I'm not starting you with one day's rest!' He goes, 'I'm telling you, if you wanna win this thing.' And I said, 'Well, we haven't set the pitcher for Game 7. Right now it's [Tim] Hudson.' He looked at me and said, 'No, no. You gotta start Huddy. I want him to start this game. But you have me ready if you wanna win this thing.' " 

The rest is history. Hudson lasted just 1 2/3 innings before Jeremy Affeldt relieved him for 2 1/3 innings. And then, Bumgarner opened the bullpen gates and gave us all one of the greatest performances in baseball history. 

Bumgarner threw the final five innings and didn't allow an earned run as the Giants outlasted the Royals, 3-2, to win their third World Series title in five years. His masterpiece on the mound forever will be remembered in the history of the Giants and baseball as a whole. 

To put it in context, Bumgarner had a 0.43 ERA in the 2014 World Series. Here's how the rest of the starting staff fared: Tim Hudson (6.14 ERA), Ryan Vogelsong (9.82) and Jake Peavy (12.79).

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"It's just this guy who had this maniacal focus on winning that World Series, and he wasn't gonna hold back on his feelings," Bochy said on Bumgarner.

Bochy's two favorite Bumgarner stories, both on and off the field, truly couldn't be any better.

Giants' Mike Krukow, Duane Kuiper tell hilarious Will Clark sushi story

Giants' Mike Krukow, Duane Kuiper tell hilarious Will Clark sushi story

Not everyone has a taste for sushi, especially Will Clark.

The Giants legend is the guy who simply orders a steak at dinner -- he’s simple and to the point.

Giants broadcasters Mike Krukow and Duane Kuiper told a funny story in a recent interview with Giants reporter Amy Gutierrez from a night out at dinner with "The Thrill."

Clark glanced at the menu at the sushi restaurant and was nice about it of course, but it wasn’t his cup of tea. Where Clark is from in Louisiana, they refer to that type of food as “bait.”

That's fair. 

The Giants announced they will retire Clark’s No. 22 jersey this season -- and rightfully so.

His sweet swing and swagger made him one of the organization’s most well-known players to ever wear orange and black.

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Clark is a six-time All-Star selection, a Gold Glove Award winner and two-time Silver Slugger Award recipient across his 15-year career, eight of them with the Giants.

A great career, just perhaps no salmon for him in the future? 

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