No-hitter for rookie

The Baltimore Sun

MIAMI -- He looked at the scoreboard with two outs in the ninth inning last night and saw the dizzying string of zeros. That is when the Florida Marlins' Anibal Sanchez felt and fought the paralysis.

His pitching hand was in his glove. His glove was in front of his mouth. Sanchez filled his lungs with the humid, South Florida air. He stood three steps behind the Dolphin Stadium mound, uncertain what to do next.

Stay put? Call time? Take the hill? He finally decided. Arizona Diamondbacks center fielder Eric Byrnes waited in the batter's box.

"I told myself, 'Now is when you have to pitch because [Byrnes] can change everything,' " Sanchez said.

A 95-mph fastball on his 102nd delivery. Swing and a miss. A slider that Byrnes hit sharply, but on the ground to shortstop Hanley Ramirez. The sequence felt like an eternity.

Pitch. Contact. Catch. Set. Throw. Out. No-hitter.

Fellow Venezuela native Miguel Cabrera reached Sanchez first after the 2-0 win, enveloping him in a bear hug and muffling his celebratory shouts. An instant later Sanchez disappeared in a bouncing mass of white, pinstriped bodies.

Sanchez, 22, emerged riding the shoulders of Dontrelle Willis, Reggie Abercrombie and Matt Herges. His face was flush. His hair was disheveled.

"I've never experienced a feeling like that," said Sanchez, after his 14th career appearance (13th start). "When I won my first game against the Yankees I felt good, but this moment is unforgettable. Nothing compares to this."

Sanchez became the fourth Marlin to throw a no-hitter, joining Al Leiter, Kevin Brown and A.J. Burnett. Leiter was the only one to do it at Dolphin Stadium.

Baseball's first no-hitter since Randy Johnson's perfect game for the Diamondbacks against the Atlanta Braves on May 18, 2004, also was the second by a native Venezuelan. Wilson Alvarez threw the other on Aug. 11, 1991, for the Chicago White Sox against the Orioles.

Sanchez's performance ended a stretch of 6,364 major league games between no-hitters. The longest gap previously was 4,015 games from Sept. 30, 1984, to Sept. 16, 1986, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

"You can't express it," said Cabrera, who along with Joe Borchard accounted for the offense with bases-empty homers. "It's something emotional that someone from your country, from the same city where you were raised can do that. ... I never thought in my life I would see this. I thank him for giving me a chance to live this."

Sanchez came out for the ninth inning having thrown 93 pitches, 60 for strikes. Conor Jackson took a first-pitch ball, two strikes, and swung through the fourth pitch of the at-bat. Luis Gonzalez, who drew two of the four walks Sanchez issued, followed and got ahead 2-0 before popping up a 2-1 offering to Cabrera.

Byrnes, who earlier in the game lined out to left and to third, hit the 10th and final pitch of the inning, erasing the doubts Sanchez took into the ninth.

"When I went out I wasn't 100 percent sure I would get the no-hitter," said Sanchez, after the 233rd no-hitter in history. "I had a premonition they were going to get a hit."

Sanchez and his teammates were determined to have this one play out just like the 12,561 fans in attendance hoped it would. He peppered the left-handed hitters with changeups. He started right-handed hitters with sliders and came back with hard stuff.

It added up to seven innings of 12 or fewer pitches.

"Everything was in conjunction," catcher Miguel Olivo said. "The fastball, sinker, slider, change, curve. Everything was in conjunction."

So was the defense. The Marlins made a pair of brilliant plays behind Sanchez to preserve the no-hit bid. With two on and two outs in the fourth, left fielder Josh Willingham got a late break on a Chad Tracy liner, but he caught the ball with a headfirst dive.

"At the time it was a big play in itself, but you didn't know it was going to be that big," Willingham said.

Three innings later, Stephen Drew hit a sharp grounder up the middle. Ramirez ranged to his left, spun around behind the bag, and threw in time to first for out No. 21.

In the fifth, Arizona's Carlos Quentin hit a sharp grounder down the line. Cabrera made a backhanded stop on one knee, then rose and threw wide, pulling Jacobs off the bag.

Official scorer Ron Jernick charged Cabrera with an error, prompting cheers from the crowd. A smiling Cabrera later applauded the ruling. "That was a bad throw, man," he said.

Juan C. Rodriguez writes for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. The Associated Press contributed to this article.

First-year feats

Rookie no-hitters since 1980:

2006 -- Anibal Sanchez, Florida, beat Arizona, 2-0.

2001 -- Bud Smith, St. Louis, beat San Diego, 4-0.

1999 -- Jose Jimenez, St. Louis, beat Arizona, 1-0.

1991 -- Wilson Alvarez, Chicago (AL), beat Orioles, 7-0.

1983 -- Mike Warren, Oakland, beat Chicago (AL), 3-0.

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