Sanchez vs. Mauer
It seems like more than four weeks ago that Anibal Sanchez set a franchise record with 17 strikeouts against the Braves. That, too, was on a Friday night, although the weather seemed a lot warmer that night than this one.
That night, Sanchez seemed truly unhittable. It was the perfect combination of Sanchez with nasty stuff against a Braves lineup that would chase it out of the strike zone.
This game was different. It was tough to look at his results early and think he was going to take a no-hitter into the ninth inning. He was falling behind hitters early, walking two of Minnesota’s first six hitters, and he wasn’t going to get away with that against hitters like Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau and Josh Willingham. Even Jamey Carroll, given his experience, is not an easy out.
Only the Astros have a worse record than the Twins, but the Twins have a much better lineup. And as well as Sanchez pitched through the middle innings, he was going to have to come back around to get Carroll, Mauer, Willingham and Morneau again.
There’s a reason why Mauer has been in a position to break up three no-hit bids in the ninth inning. Where he hits in the Twins order, a pitcher is going to have to retire him four times unless he has faced somewhere around the minimum number of hitters.
“It’s really hard to face that guy four times or five times in one game and dominate,” Sanchez said of Mauer. “This guy, he’s so smart. I tried to make my best pitch.”
Mauer faced Sanchez in two games last season following Sanchez’s trade from the Marlins. Mauer had four singles, including three line drives to different parts of the outfield, a walk and a groundout. Sanchez retired him three times in the season-opening series in Minneapolis last month, but one was a fly ball to deep center field.
When Sanchez fanned Mauer twice on Friday, he did something very few Tigers starters have been to accomplish against him. His multi-strikeout games against Detroit are few and far between, once a season from 2009 to now until he did it a second time Friday.
Yet if any hitter can shrug that off, it’s Mauer.
“Every time I go up there, I try to get a hit or get on-base or do something positive on the offensive side,” Mauer said. “We got one hit. It doesn’t take away what he did tonight. Sanchez was great. Obviously it nice to get a hit there at the end, but we still lost.”
Mauer said he hit a cutter. Sanchez and Alex Avila said he hit a breaking ball.
“It may have been the only mistake he made all game,” Willingham said.
It had to seem familiar for Gavin Floyd. Mauer got him for a single with one out in the ninth to break up his no-hit bid on May 6, 2008. Two years later, Mauer got Neftali Feliz, the fourth pitcher of Texas’ no-hit bid on August 23, 2010.
Since then, no-hit bids have become a lot more common. Yet as the season heads into Memorial Day weekend, the 2013 season is still awaiting its first no-no. Sanchez was the fourth pitcher this year to take a no-hitter into the eighth inning, all of them broken up. According to STATS, 12 no-hit bids lasted into the eighth inning last year, with half of them being completed.