The 22-year-old rookie from Venezuela etched his place in baseball history Wednesday night by tossing the fourth no-hitter in Marlins history.
Called up from Double-A on June 25, Sanchez made his mark on his 13th big-league start, silencing the Arizona Diamondbacks, 2-0, in front of 12,561 at Dolphin Stadium.
In an improbable season for the rookie-laden Marlins, Sanchez pitched the first no-hitter in the Major Leagues since Randy Johnson's perfect game in 2004, ending the longest gap between no-hitters in Major League history. Then with Arizona, the Big Unit overwhelmed the Braves on May 18.
Totally in command from the start, Sanchez struck out six and walked four, and capped an incredible night by using 103 pitches.
"This is the best moment of my life," an exuberant Sanchez said after turning in the 127th all-time National League no-hitter, and 233rd in Major League history. "I don't know what I think now, because you never think that is going to happen for you. But that happened, and I'm happy right now."
In the organization's 14th season, the Marlins surprisingly have four no-hitters. The last was turned in by A.J. Burnett against the Padres at San Diego on May 12, 2001. Al Leiter (May 11, 1996 vs. Colorado) and Kevin Brown (Sept. 22, 1997 at San Francisco) posted the other gems.
Along with historical significance, the surging Marlins took two of three from the Diamondbacks, and they've now won 14 of their last 17 as they remain squarely in Wild Card contention.
"I'm happy for our club, and what they're doing," beamed first-year manager Joe Girardi. "In the midst of a Wild Card run, we've got a player who steps up and throws a no-hitter. That's pretty amazing, that they've grown up so much in a short period."
Sanchez had never thrown a no-hitter at any level until Wednesday night. He had a stretch where on successive starts, he gave up two hits in seven scoreless innings against the Astros (July 14), and one hit in seven innings while facing the Nationals (July 19).
Since 1900, 19 rookies have recorded no-hitters. Sanchez is the first rookie to pull off the feat since Bud Smith of the Cardinals, who did it against the Padres on Sept. 3, 2001. The only other Venezuelan-born pitcher to achieve no-hit status is Wilson Alvarez, then with the White Sox, on Aug. 11, 1991. He beat the Orioles that night.
Considering the Marlins started the season off 11-31, and now they've improved to 70-69, this young squad is starting to believe in impossible dreams.
Sanchez's no-hitter came the day after Girardi's wife, Kim, gave birth to her third child.
"I don't believe in magic, but my wife called me up tonight and said, 'It's kind of like some of those magical seasons that you had as a player,'" said Girardi, who was on three World Series title teams with the Yankees. "My wife doesn't believe in magic, either. You've got a strange feeling by as much as they've been able to overcome."
The Diamondbacks have now been no-hit twice in their history. The other was Jose Jimenez of St. Louis on June 25, 1999.
Acquired from the Red Sox as part of the Josh Beckett/Mike Lowell trade last Thanksgiving, Sanchez (7-2) has won three straight decisions. He's made a huge impact from the moment he was brought up to face the Yankees in the second game of a split doubleheader at Yankee Stadium.
In his big-league debut, he gave up seven hits in 5 2/3 scoreless innings, collecting the win. That night, he said he was living out a dream. But he expected to be demoted afterward because he was added for the doubleheader.
He's turned out to be a fixture in the rotation ever since.
"He knows how to pitch," Girardi said. "Tonight, he was pitching at 91 and 92 [mph], the last inning he was throwing 95. And his breaking ball was outstanding, and he threw some great changeups. For a young man, he knows how to pitch. He knows how to change speeds, and eye levels, and [go] in and out. He's very wise for his years.
"He's been tested as tough as a test can be, and he's come through with flying colors. To have your first start at Yankee Stadium, that's a test. The tradition there, and the team he was facing. And then just to watch him accomplish things, has just been remarkable. He's got a great work ethic. He has a love for the game. You watch how the other players embrace him, you get a sense of what kind of guy he is."
A low-key native of Maracay, Venezuela, Sanchez opened the season in Double-A Carolina, but he's been a big addition to a young staff. The right-hander went into the ninth inning having thrown 93 pitches.
In a tension-filled ninth, Sanchez struck out Conor Jackson to open the inning. Luis Gonzalez, who walked twice, popped out to Miguel Cabrera at third.
As the crowd was rising to its feet in anticipation, Sanchez reflected behind the mound, and glancing up, he saw the giant scoreboard with a "zero" in the Diamondbacks' hit column.
"When I got two outs, I saw the screen, and thought, 'All right, no-hitter,'" Sanchez said. "I just froze for a couple of moments. I knew in the last inning, the [Nos.] 2, 3, 4 hitters were up. That's their best hitters in their lineup."
Eric Byrnes grounded Sanchez's 103rd pitch to shortstop.
Fielding it cleanly, Hanley Ramirez's throw to Wes Helms at first sent the Marlins into hysteria, as the players mobbed Sanchez on the field.
Leading the charge was Cabrera, who like Sanchez is from Maracay. The two are close friends, having known each other since they were teenagers.
"I saw when [Ramirez] got the ball, and he threw the ball, I ran to the mound. I said, 'You're the best, thank you,'" Cabrera said.
Near home plate, catcher Miguel Olivo started to cry. A burly catcher, Olivo joked that he didn't want to be part of the mob scene engulfing Sanchez.
"I didn't want to get hit, and have Cabrera jumping on me," quipped Olivo.
Sanchez brilliantly mixed in his changeup to left-handed hitters to complement his slider and fastball.
Some splendid defense prevented the Diamondbacks from spoiling the no-hit bid.
Breezing through the first inning on eight pitches, Sanchez retired the first 10 Diamondbacks before issuing a walk to Jackson. Gonzalez then walked on four pitches, but Sanchez got through the inning, thanks to a spectacular sliding catch by Josh Willingham in left field. Willingham charged Chad Tracy's sinking liner, and went airborne for the final out.
The next baserunner allowed by Sanchez was in the fifth when Carlos Quentin reached on a throwing error by Cabrera. While Cabrera made a nice backhanded stab at third, his throw was high, pulling first baseman Mike Jacobs off the base.
"That was a bad throw," said Cabrera, thankful an error was called instead of a hit. "I tried to throw so hard, I don't know what I was thinking."
Cabrera said he didn't check the scoreboard, because he was afraid a hit may have been ruled. Cabrera, however, made a nice grab to end the sixth inning, clutching with two hands Byrnes' hard liner.
The no-hitter remained intact in the seventh inning when Ramirez made a brilliant play going up the middle, robbing Stephen Drew. The rookie shortstop nabbed the grounder earmarked for center field, and his throw beat Drew by a half-step.
More heads-up defense got Sanchez through the eighth inning. With one out, pinch-hitter Craig Counsell drew a one-out walk. But Sanchez got Orlando Hudson to bounce into a double play. The defensive gem was started by Dan Uggla at second. Uggla attempted to tag out Counsell, who retreated toward first. So Uggla threw to first to get Hudson. Jacobs then threw to second, where Ramirez applied the tag on Counsell.
In the second inning, Joe Borchard's ninth home run gave the Marlins the only run they needed. The blast off Edgar Gonzalez (1-3) was Borchard's eighth homer while batting left-handed. The nine home runs equal his season high, initially set in 2004 while he was with the White Sox.
Cabrera blasted a 432-foot home run to open the fourth inning, making it 2-0.
"Before the last inning, when I went to the mound, I said, 'All right, one-two-three. That's what I want,'" Sanchez said.
Ironically, in Maracay, the No. 13 is looked upon as a lucky number.
"It's lucky No. 13," Sanchez said.
Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.