Aaron Sanchez and three Houston Astros relievers combine for no-hitter against the Seattle Mariners on Saturday
It took a new home and a new uniform for Aaron Sanchez to look like a completely different pitcher on Saturday night.
Sanchez, making his debut for the Houston Astros after a deadline day trade with the Toronto Blue Jays, pitched six no-hit innings against the Seattle Mariners at Minute Maid Park as four Astros pitchers combined for the 12th no-hitter in franchise history. Houston scored three runs in the first inning and added a home run by Jose Altuve in the fifth as they went on to beat the Mariners 9-0.
The pitcher who dominated the Mariners on Saturday looked nothing like the Sanchez who struggled in Toronto. Sanchez came into the game with the worst ERA in baseball among qualified starters at 6.07. He hadn’t won since April 27, a span of 17 straight starts. His ERA was above nine in his last 10 starts. In June he had the third-worst ERA ever for a Blue Jays pitcher in any month, and the worst ever by any pitcher in June.
It was a stunning fall for a pitcher who won the American League ERA title just three seasons ago. Still with a year left on his contract, the Blue Jays saw enough to trade him to Houston on Wednesday along with Joe Biagini and minor leaguer Cal Stevenson for outfielder Derek Fisher.
The Astros, though, figured something out with him. Of his 92 pitches on Saturday, 27 (29 percent) were curveballs. In Toronto, he was throwing his curveball just 22 percent of the time. He threw his four-seam fastball 37 percent against Seattle, compared to just 21 percent earlier in the season. He was throwing his sinker 31 percent of the time this season but didn’t throw any on Saturday.
Sanchez struck out six batters while walking two and hitting one before being removed after the sixth inning. Will Harris pitched the seventh before Biagini came on in the eighth inning, working around a walk to Ryan Court and getting Mallex Smith to ground out to first base to end the inning. Chris Devenski got the final three outs, retiring Kyle Seager on a ground out, striking out Omar Narvaez and finally getting Daniel Vogelbach to fly out to Josh Reddick in right field to complete the first Astros no-hitter since Mike Fiers in 2015.
For Sanchez, his first game with a new team after spending parts of six seasons with the Blue Jays couldn’t have gone better. “I mean, what a fun night,” Sanchez told AT&T Sportsnet afterward. “For me, I was just coming in here and try to have a good first impression. The offense gave me an early lead and allowed me to just go out there and pitch. I mean, this is awesome. You can’t write it up any better than this.”
He becomes the first pitcher to combine for a no-hitter in his first start with a new team since Mark Langston with the California Angels in 1990.
A return to his 2016 form for Sanchez would be a welcome addition to the AL West-leading Astros. Houston also acquired Zack Greinke from the Arizona Diamondbacks on Wednesday, joining a rotation that already includes Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole and Wade Miley. Verlander, Cole, Greinke and Miley all rank in the top 13 in the Majors in ERA. Verlander, Greinke and Cole are first, third and fifth in WHIP.
It’s no wonder that they are already being compared favorably to some of the best rotations in baseball history. And if Sanchez continues to pitch as he did on Saturday, good luck to the rest of the American League beating this team in October.