Washington Nationals starting pitcher Anibal Sanchez on Friday flirted with the third no-hitter in MLB playoff history, his dominant effort fueling the Nationals’ 2-0 triumph over the Cardinals in St Louis in Game 1 of the National League Championship Series (NLCS).
The 14-year MLB veteran took his no-hit bid into the eighth inning before Cardinals pinch-hitter Jose Martinez lined a two-out single to center field to break it up.
Two batters earlier, Nats first baseman Ryan Zimmerman preserved Sanchez’s effort with an outstanding leaping catch of a line drive by Tommy Edman.
Sanchez departed with a wave to fans who stood at St Louis’ Busch Stadium, having struck out five, hit two batters and walked one on 103 pitches.
Sean Doolittle recorded the final four outs to seal the victory.
“It was huge,” said Nationals manager Dave Martinez, who was without regular closing pitcher Daniel Hudson.
Hudson missed the game to be with his wife as their third child was born on Friday, but was due to be back for Game 2 in St Louis yesterday.
“I don’t claim to be superstitious, but when you got a no-hitter, I was freezing my butt off and didn’t want to put a jacket on and I stayed with this, just this sweat shirt the whole game,” Martinez said.
The Nationals seized a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven NLCS, with the winners of the series to take on either the New York Yankees or Houston Astros in the World Series.
The Astros host the Yankees in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series today.
Nationals catcher Yan Gomes, playing behind the plate after regular starter Kurt Suzuki took a deflected fastball to the head during the team’s series-winning victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers, said he did not abide by the baseball tradition of not talking to a pitcher working on a no-hitter.
“We had at least a conversation every inning,” Gomes said. “It was important for us to stay on the same page.”
Gomes’ double in the second inning scored Howie Kendrick to put the Nats up 1-0.
Kendrick, who belted a 10th-inning grand slam in Washington’s decisive win over the Dodgers, smacked a two-out single in the seventh to score Adam Eaton.
However, Sanchez, who threw a regular-season no-hitter as a rookie with the Florida Marlins in 2006, was the star.
He retired the first 10 batters he faced and in taking his no-hit bid into the late innings, he became the first pitcher in MLB history with multiple post-season no-hit bids of at least six innings.
He threw six no-hit innings in Game 1 of the 2013 ALCS for Detroit against Boston, but said he wasn’t thinking about that on Friday.
“Every year is different, everything is different,” Sanchez said. “Today I just wanted to get a win for the team and get us ahead in the series.”
There have been only two post-season no-hitters in history, the first to Don Larsen of the New York Yankees in Game 5 of the 1956 World Series against the Brooklyn Dodgers, while Roy Halladay threw a no-hitter for the Philadelphia Phillies when he struck out eight batters and surrendered one walk in a 4-0 victory over the Cincinnati Reds in game one of the 2010 National League Division Series.
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