<
>

Long road to history-making performance

9/7/2006

BASEBALL TONIGHT EXTRA

By Mark Simon, ESPN Research

Sometimes, the best baseball moments are the most unexpected. That was the case with Anibal Sanchez's no-hitter on Wednesday night.

The Marlins rookie became the 19th rookie pitcher since 1900 to throw a no-hitter, shutting down the free-falling D-Backs with a tremendous performance. Sanchez, who had only one minor-league complete game to his credit prior to this season, had a great changeup working all night and showed great poise as he made history.

The 22-year-old right-hander had to overcome his share of adversity along the way. Three years ago, Sanchez sat out the season after having Tommy John surgery. Earlier this year, he was a sub-.500 pitcher for the Carolina Mudcats.

But on this night, he was the center of attention -- not an easy accomplishment with all the ongoing pennant races. Speaking of which, the Marlins are right in the thick of things for the wild-card spot, and pitching from youngsters like Sanchez is a big reason why.

CALIFORNIA DREAMING

By John Kruk, ESPN

My pick for the NL wild-card winner has to be the San Diego Padres. The Padres are in a tough fight right now with the Philadelphia Phillies for this spot, and I think the race could go down to the last day of the season before it's decided.

The Phillies are being carried by first baseman Ryan Howard, while the Padres look like they're struggling on the surface. Of course, this team has looked like it's struggling for most of the year and still finds itself in the playoff hunt. The reasons for that are some of the same reasons why the Padres are going to win the wild card.

First of all, the Padres have very good pitching. Though it's not the best in the league and Jake Peavy hasn't been nearly as consistent as everyone thought he would be, the right-hander is showing why he's their ace down the stretch.

The second reason why the Padres have a better shot? They don't have one singular slugger for opposing teams to try to identify and stop. The Phillies have Howard, whom teams can choose not to pitch to in September -- forcing him to either take a bunch of walks or expand his strike zone.

The final reason why the Padres have a great shot is they don't have as tough a schedule as the Phillies. Philadelphia still has games against the Astros and Marlins. Both teams remain in the hunt and will have extra incentive to try and defeat the Phillies.

This is going to be a blast to watch down the stretch.

ELIAS SAYS

• Joe Girardi became the first man since Jeff Torborg to both catch and manage a no-hitter. Girardi employed six rookies on Wednesday night, including Anibal Sanchez. That's the most rookies to play on the winning side of a no-hitter since 1957, when MLB established its first official rule to define the rookie status of players.

• The Nationals rallied for two ninth-inning runs off Jason Isringhausen in a 7-6 victory over the Cardinals. It was the fifth time during their just-completed homestand that the Nats won a game in which they trailed in the eighth inning or later. No team since the 1998 Red Sox had won as many as five games in that fashion during one homestand, and no National League team had done so since the Phillies of 1955.

• Brian Roberts homered on the first pitch of the game in the Orioles' loss at Anaheim. It was the fifth time this season that a player hit a first-pitch home run to lead off the top of the first inning, and the fourth time that it was done in a losing effort. Only Alfonso Soriano did it in a victory (July 18 versus the Marlins). Jose Reyes, David DeJesus and Soriano (July 15) are the others who did it in losses.

• Mike Stanton closed the door on the Reds with a 1-2-3 ninth inning, preserving the Giants' 3-2 win. Stanton has earned a save in each of his last four appearances (his longest such streak since 1993) without allowing a baserunner over that span. The only other pitcher to record a "perfect" save in each of four straight appearances this season is Tom Gordon (May 1-6).

• The A's came from behind to defeat the Rangers as Joe Blanton notched his 15th win of the season. Blanton, who won 12 games as a rookie last season, is only the fifth pitcher since 1950 to win as many as 15 games for the A's in his sophomore year in the majors. The others were Vida Blue (24-8 in 1971), Tim Hudson (20-6 in 2000), Mark Mulder (21-8 in 2001) and Barry Zito (17-8 in 2001).

More from Elias Says

NEWS AND NOTES

Mark Mulder • Cardinals LHP Mark Mulder will undergo arthroscopic surgery next week to repair his rotator cuff after getting a second opinion that concurred with the team's diagnosis. Mulder, 29, went back on the 15-day disabled list last week for the second time this season. He missed two months earlier this year because of rotator cuff damage and impingement in the shoulder, which had caused him to alter his delivery.

• Twins rookie LHP Francisco Liriano threw 50 pitches during a three-inning simulated game Wednesday and could rejoin the Twins' rotation next week. Liriano, on the disabled list since Aug. 8 with a strained ligament in his pitching arm, is tentatively set to make a minor league start Saturday. That would line him up to possibly pitch Sept. 14 against Cleveland.

• With less than a month left in the regular season, Rangers owner Tom Hicks has come out swinging at his team. Hicks complained in a radio interview Tuesday about the Rangers' lack of leadership and mental toughness this season. "We need to be a little tougher," Hicks said on KTCK-AM. "We need to be mentally tougher."