Sandoval comes 2 outs shy of no-no, fans 13

July 25th, 2021

MINNEAPOLIS -- It wasn’t a no-hitter, but it was the best performance of left-hander ’s young career on Saturday against the Twins.

Sandoval took a no-no hitter into the ninth inning but gave up a one-out double to Brent Rooker, falling just two outs shy of the franchise’s 12th no-no. Sandoval was removed after 8 2/3 innings and closer Raisel Iglesias gave up an RBI double to Josh Donaldson before striking out Miguel Sanó to preserve a 2-1 win at Target Field. It spoiled an otherwise sensational showing from Sandoval, who struck out a career-high 13 batters on 108 pitches.

“I felt really good out there and just crisp and in sync with my delivery, and I think that was the key as the game went on,” Sandoval said. “I didn't try too hard or try to do too much. As for knowing what was going on, I looked up at the scoreboard after each inning. I knew what was happening. And as the game went on, everyone in the dugout just got further and further away."

Rooker entered the at-bat with a .303 OPS and had struck out in his previous three plate appearances, but he doubled on a first-pitch slider that caught too much of the zone. Rooker dropped it just fair down the right-field line and didn’t appear to see where he hit it coming off the bat.

“It was probably one of the worst ones I threw all day,” Sandoval said. “It just spun up there. He didn't put that good of a swing on it. Guys in the dugout were saying it didn't look like he knew where it went."

Rooker admitted he was fooled by the slider, but he was happy to help the Twins avoid the no-hitter. Rooker's .083 average (min. 20 at-bats) was the worst by a hitter who broke up a no-hit bid in the ninth dating back to the expansion era (1961), per ESPN Stats & Info.

“I thought he had finally hung a changeup,” said Rooker. “Turned out to be a slider, kind of came in on my hands. I was able to put the oopsie swing on it and get a lucky hit there.”

Sandoval was in control the entire game, as the Twins reached base only five times against him. He hit two batters, walked one and had another reach on an error before Rooker’s double.

Josh Donaldson drew a leadoff walk in the second and was stranded, while Max Kepler was hit by a pitch in the fourth before Sandoval promptly got Donaldson to ground into an inning-ending double play. Shortstop José Iglesias also made a throwing error to lead off the fifth, but Sandoval bounced back by striking out the next three batters. Sandoval also plunked Trevor Larnach with one out in the eighth, but he struck out Gilberto Celestino and got Andrelton Simmons to ground out.

Angels manager Joe Maddon was particularly impressed by the way Sandoval shook off the throwing error by Iglesias.

"He kept his composure in that situation and that really stood out to me," Maddon said. "What he did right after that was special."

Sandoval's changeup was again his best pitch, as he registered 13 swings and misses with it, while his slider got six whiffs and helped him induce Donaldson’s double play in the fourth. Sandoval tallied an impressive 21 swings and misses on the night while throwing his fastball just 19 percent of the time.

“The changeup and the slider, I feel like I threw them a bunch from the sixth inning on,” Sandoval said. “I'd just mix in a couple fastballs to keep them honest. And first-pitch curveballs here and there. But for the most part, the changeup and slider felt really good and I was able to throw them in the zone.”

It showed how far Sandoval has come this season, as the 24-year-old didn't join the rotation until mid-May after making three relief appearances earlier that month. Sandoval has excelled in his new role, posting a 3.22 ERA in 11 starts with 73 strikeouts in 64 1/3 innings. He has gone at least seven innings in each of his last three outings.

“I thought his last game [against Seattle] was a growth game for him,” Maddon said. “We let him go an extra inning and 101 [pitches] and seven [innings]. That's part of why he was able to do what he did today. In today's game, we're always aware of pulling guys early for various reasons. But if you want a young pitcher to really be able to develop mentally, you gotta leave him out there for a bit. He just keeps getting better, and his confidence is sky high.”

Sandoval was pleased with the way he handled everything mentally, as he never let the moment get too big and was able to stay calm despite knowing he had a potential no-hitter in the works.

"I've never really envisioned it, it's not something I've dreamt of,” Sandoval said. “It was pretty surreal. You can hear the crowd getting louder and louder every inning later in the game. I thought I handled it pretty well. Honestly, I thought I'd freak it out."