The Detroit Tigers’ pitching staff revolves around Justin Verlander, yet Anibal Sanchez does a lot for them too. Sanchez was only 4-4 coming into his start against the Minnesota Twins on May 24, yet that was due more to the Tigers’ lack of run support. But that was hardly a concern on this start, as Sanchez nearly became the first pitcher to finish a no-hitter this season — although he finally came up just short in the ninth inning.
Sanchez was within two outs of his second career no-hitter, until Joe Mauer broke the slump. While he later finished a complete game one-hitter in the Tigers’ 6-0 win, Sanchez still became the latest hurler to fall short of the year’s first no-hitter.
Aces like Yu Darvish, Clay Buchholz, Adam Wainwright and Matt Harvey have taken their best shots, but couldn’t finish the job. If this was 2012, they probably would have, given that there were seven no-hitters last year alone. But although pitching is no less dominant across the league this season, no one has completed a no-hit, no-run game through these first two months.
The natural assumption when it comes to the Tigers is that if anyone’s going to do it, it’s Verlander. He already has two career no-hitters and has barely missed out on a few more. However, Verlander has struggled in recent starts that have pushed his ERA above 3.60, while starters like Sanchez, Max Scherzer and Doug Fister have filled the gap.
Sanchez pitched his first no-hitter as a rookie with the then-Florida Marlins in 2006, so this didn’t come out of nowhere. But although it took seven years to come this close again, he didn’t quite remember how to finish the job, thanks to Mauer.
Nevertheless, Sanchez is hardly alone in that regard this year. Here is a list of all the other pitchers who fell short of breaking the no-hitter glass ceiling of 2013 — even if it has more than a few cracks in it.
Darvish got the ball rolling in just the Texas Rangers’ second game of the season, coming within one out of a perfect game against the Houston Astros on April 2. Yet on his first pitch to Marwin Gonzalez, Darvish gave up a ground ball base hit and was then taken out of the game. At the time, Darvish seemed to be setting the tone for a season full of no-hitters.
Harvey first made the baseball world take notice by carrying a no-hitter into the seventh inning against the Twins on April 13. In this case, it was Justin Morneau who saved the Twins from being no-hit with a home run in the seventh. Although Harvey wasn’t perfect on this night, he is still perfect for the season, nonetheless.
A day later, Buchholz no-hit the Tampa Bay Rays for 7 1-3 innings until Kelly Johnson broke it up. But like Harvey, the 7-0 Buchholz has remained perfect throughout the season despite losing perfection on this one night.
The St. Louis Cardinals’ Shelby Miller had retired the last 27 Colorado Rockies he faced on May 10. Wainwright’s encore the next day had him taking a no-hitter into the eighth, as 49 consecutive Rockies came and went without a hit over two games. But just as Colorado narrowly avoided a perfect game, it narrowly saved itself from a no-hitter with a Nolan Arenado single.
Sale only threw a perfect game for 6 1-3 innings against the Los Angeles Angels on May 12, until Mike Trout broke it up. It was the only hit Sale gave up all night in his complete game – then he shut out the Angels for 7 2-3 innings in his very next start on May 17.
Sanchez came closer to wrapping up a no-hitter than anyone since Darvish in the first week of the year. It makes it all the weirder that no one has finished one off, but at this rate, it will come any day now.