Pitching a no-hitter takes a combination of different factors all coming together, which is why the feat is so rare.
But for the Orioles offense — which has sputtered at Camden Yards this season — to be grinding for their first hit of the game in the eighth inning for the second time in 12 games this season is also a rarity.
The Orioles were six outs away from being no-hit Tuesday night at Camden Yards as Blue Jays right-hander Aaron Sanchez took a no-hit bid into the eighth inning in the Orioles’ gut-wrenching 2-1 loss to Toronto.
In the Orioles’ second game of the year, the Orioles were four outs away from being no hit, held hitless for 7 2/3 innings by the Minnesota Twins in a 6-2 loss at Camden Yards.
Twins starter Kyle Gibson held the Orioles hitless through six innings, and the Orioles’ first hit didn’t come until Jonathan Schoop’s single with two outs in the eighth off reliever Ryan Pressly. Third baseman Tim Beckham hit a two-run homer in the ninth for the Orioles’ only runs.
In both games, the Orioles were susceptible to offspeed pitches. Sanchez leaned on his changeup — throwing it for 42 of his 98 pitches (42.8 percent), according to Statcast data from BaseballSavant.com — and induced eight swinging strikes and nine called strikes on the pitch while allowing his defense to work behind him. Gibson relied on his changeup and curveball in holding the Orioles hitless.
“Sanchez is a good pitcher,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “He’s really good. But we need to be better offensively. I think everybody knows that. You see guys as much as we see guys like Sanchez, I notice how much different he pitched a couple guys who had some success off him, a lot of changeups. You have to look out for those things when you’re facing a guy that you’ve kind of done well again. Obviously, not all of them, but a couple. Guys learn and they get knowledge. He was good, but I’m not going to say anything really that’s going to take away from the credit that he deserves, but we’re better than that.”
Going into the eighth inning Tuesday, Sanchez held a 1-0 lead and had made easy work of the Orioles, aside from the four walks and hit batter he allowed on base before Beckham pulled a first-pitch changeup to third base, where it skipped between Josh Donaldson’s legs and into left field. Beckham landed on second base and was awarded a double.
The next two batters reached on unquestionable hits — right fielder Anthony Santander singled to right and Chance Sisco hit a game-tying RBI double to right — but the Orioles were unable to plate the go-ahead run despite having two runners in scoring position with no outs against Sanchez.
“Sanchez was good today,” said second baseman Jonathan Schoop, who hit into a rally-killing double play in the eighth. “He was on his game, made some pitches and got out of a big inning over there. We scored on him, and I got a chance to do damage, but he made a good pitch and made me ground out into the double play.”
Sanchez faced the minimum number of batters through 3 1/3 innings — a first-inning hit batter was erased when Schoop was picked off first — and no Orioles baserunner went beyond first base through seven innings.
Sisco drew a leadoff walk to open the sixth, but Sanchez escaped that inning on a Trey Mancini flyout and a 4-6-3 inning-ending double play off the bat of Manny Machado.
“He’s in the strike zone a lot with movement, late life,” Showalter said. “Guys in the big leagues, nobody really pitches in the strike zone anymore. Let’s face it, he’s throwing a 3-1 changeup to a rookie No. 9 hole hitter and that’s all you need to know. With that type of command and that type of … they make presentations that make pitches appear as strikes and become a ball, and that’s why you get a lot of weak contact.”
The Orioles have scored just seven runs in five home games at Camden Yards this season, losing four of those games, including the first two of this week’s three-game set against the Blue Jays.
Sanchez could thank his defense for being so close. Mancini, batting leadoff, was robbed of a hit twice. Former Oriole Steve Pearce made a full-stride leaping catch of Mancini’s liner into the right-center field gap in the first inning, and center fielder Kevin Pillar flagged down another Mancini shot to deep center in the fourth, jumping to make a catch just in front of the center-field wall.
Sanchez allowed three barreled balls on the night, all by Mancini.
Blue Jays second baseman Devon Travis also made a no-hitter saving catch in the fifth diving to take away a single from Beckham on a blooper into shallow right-center field.
“Game’s not fair,” Showalter said. “Trey squared up three balls and with nothing to show for it. They were playing guys right.”