Patrick Sandoval flirts with a no-hitter and shows he can be Angels savior

Angels LHP Patrick Sandoval flirted with history on Saturday, his no-hit bid broken up with one out in the ninth inning at Target Field

Shohei Ohtani lined two hard-hit doubles, but, for once, he wasn’t the one on the field wearing Angels grey and red everyone was looking at on Saturday.

Patrick Sandoval, the Angels left-hander who didn’t even begin the year in the starting rotation, came two outs away from the 12th no-hitter in franchise history, his bid for immortality ending when Twins designated hitter Brent Rooker lofted a fly ball down the right-field line for a double with one out in the ninth inning.

Sandoval breezed through the Twins lineup on Saturday, getting them to swing feebly at his assortment of changeups, sliders, and sinkers. Entering the ninth inning seeking to become the first visiting pitcher to throw a no-hitter against a Twins franchise that dates back to 1901 and more than 9,400 games, he got Jorge Polanco waving at a low slider for his career-high 13th strikeout of the night.

Then came Rooker, an unlikely candidate to be the one to spoil his gem. Rooker was only recalled from the minors on Friday after slugger Nelson Cruz was traded to the Rays and was 3-36 with two extra-base hits this season. He hadn’t gotten a hit in almost three months. Sandoval had already struck him out three times in the game. But his first pitch, a slider, caught too much of the plate, and Rooker hit a soft liner that just landed in fair territory for the Twins’ first hit.

Sandoval was taken out of the game after retiring Max Kepler; closer Raisel Iglesias gave up another double to break up the shutout but struck out Miguel Sano to preserve the Angels 2-1 win.

“I lot of things went through my mind,” Sandoval told Bally Sports West about watching the pitch to Rooker fall in. “But, you know, it was fun to compete out there for that long and ride that game out as long as I did.”

The Angels have the game’s brightest star in Ohtani, and baseball’s best player, Mike Trout. But what has held this franchise back for so long is pitching. The Angels rotation came into Saturday with the eighth-worst ERA in the league; starters other than Ohtani have a 5.24 ERA and a record of 21-30.

Sandoval shows he can be just what the Angels need

In need of someone to take the load off Ohtani’s shoulders, Sandoval is making a bid to be that long-awaited pitcher. It’s been an unexpected but pleasant ascent for the 24-year-old. Sandoval owned a 1-9 career record and 5.33 ERA before this season. He began the year pitching out of the Angels bullpen before joining the rotation in mid-May. In 11 starts since, he has a 3.22 ERA, 10th in the American League. He’s now lasted at least seven innings each of his last three starts after not going that long in any of his first 23 career starts, the first Angels pitcher to do that since the late Tyler Skaggs in 2018.

Sandoval was trying to become the first Angels pitcher to throw a no-hitter since Jered Weaver on May 2, 2012, also against the Twins, and the seventh in MLB this season. Only one other pitcher in franchise history had ever recorded at least 13 strikeouts while giving up no more than one hit: Nolan Ryan, who last did it against the Twins in his third no-hitter on Sept. 28, 1974.

Sandoval admitted after the game he knew what was going on early, taking a peek at the scoreboard after every inning. He came up two batters short at joining pitching’s most exclusive club, but he did gain something on Saturday: a lot of confidence.

“I mean, it’s huge,” he said. “I’m just trying to build off each start and stay deeper into games, give our bullpen a rest and give us a chance to win.”

His performance should give the Angels hope that their rotation is no longer Ohtani and everybody else. At long last, they may have found the extra piece they’ve been working for, the pitcher who can help complement their two superstars and bring this organization where they want to go.

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