Sanchez, who was demoted from the starting rotation two weeks ago, returned with a flourish by pitching a no-hitter in San Francisco's 8-0 victory Friday night over the San Diego Padres.
It was the fifth no-hitter in Giants history since the franchise moved west in 1958 and the first since John Montefusco achieved the feat at Atlanta in a 9-0 victory on Sept. 29, 1976. The last no-hitter by a Giants pitcher at home belonged to Ed Halicki, who stymied the New York Mets 6-0 on Aug. 24, 1975.
Sanchez (3-8) might have seemed like an unlikely candidate to make history, given his inconsistency. Only once in his 13 previous starts did he pitch more than six innings. He lost four consecutive starts in June and compiled a 7.45 ERA in that span, prompting his demotion from the rotation. He entered the game with 46 walks in only 69 2/3 innings.
But the 26-year-old left-hander morphed from erratic to efficient against the Padres, maintaining a perfect game for 7 1/3 innings.
Many no-hitters require luck or defensive gems for preservation. But the Padres, who entered the game ranked last in the National League in hitting and scoring, barely tested Sanchez -- with the notable exception of Adrian Gonzalez, their best hitter.
Gonzalez drove an opposite-field fly ball to the warning track in left leading off the second inning. He did the same thing with a 3-1 pitch to open the eighth inning, except this time the trajectory appeared more suggestive of a home run. But John Bowker caught the ball a step or two in front of the wall.
The rest of the eighth inning was adventuresome for Sanchez. The next batter, Chase Headley, hit a tricky grounder that third baseman Juan Uribe, who moved over from second one inning earlier, tried to field on a short hop. The ball caromed off Uribe's chest and eluded him again as he hastily fumbled for the ball, enabling Headley to reach first base safely. The official scorer quickly ruled the play an error.
Sanchez then fired a wild pitch on his first delivery to pinch-hitter Craig Stansberry before running the count to 3-1, his second three-ball count of the inning. But Stansberry rescued Sanchez by popping up to short right-center field. Eliezer Alfonzo, the ex-Giants catcher, ended the inning by striking out -- Sanchez's 10th of the evening, which matched a personal best.
Offensive support for Sanchez wasn't an issue. The Giants jumped ahead with four runs in the second inning off Padres starter Josh Banks (1-1), an uprising highlighted by Travis Ishikawa's leadoff triple and Aaron Rowand's two-run single. Pablo Sandoval prompted a curtain call with his 14th homer of the season in the fifth inning, good for three runs. San Francisco added a superfluous run in the eighth.