BALTIMORE -- Aaron Sanchez flirted with history on Tuesday night, but in the end, he had to settle for one of the most dominating starts of his career.Sanchez was six outs away from becoming the second pitcher in Blue Jays history to toss a no-hitter. That changed when the Orioles
BALTIMORE -- Aaron Sanchez flirted with history on Tuesday night, but in the end, he had to settle for one of the most dominating starts of his career.
Sanchez was six outs away from becoming the second pitcher in Blue Jays history to toss a no-hitter. That changed when the Orioles strung together three consecutive hits in an eighth-inning rally, but Sanchez earned the victory in Toronto's 2-1 win over the Orioles, thanks in large part to a ninth-inning solo homer by Curtis Granderson.
Several Blue Jays pitchers have come close to no-hitters in recent years. Marco Estrada was five outs away from a no-hitter in 2015. Brandon Morrow was one out away in 2010. But Dave Stieb remains the lone Toronto pitcher with a no-hitter on his resume. He did it on Sept. 2, 1990, and while Sanchez came close on Tuesday night, it wasn't quite enough.
"I knew what was at stake," Sanchez said. "I was just trying to go out there and execute pitches. I was still pitching in a 0-0 game. It was more about outlasting their starter, trying to make pitches. I was just trying to give our team a chance to go ahead ... and me just making pitches, really."
Sanchez might not have finished off the no-hitter, but it was still one of the most dominating performances of his young career. He struck out four and required just 98 pitches to get through eight innings, despite walking five batters. It was a spectacular performance from one of the league's rising stars, but it was the way that Sanchez did it that caught a lot of people off guard.
The 25-year-old is known most for his overpowering upper-90s fastball, but the righty adjusted his approach Tuesday night, and it was his changeup that stole the show. Sanchez worked on the pitch all spring and heavily relied on it during each of his first two starts of the season. But against the Orioles, he went to the pitch a stunning 42 times.
Sanchez's changeup is harder than most, with an average velocity of 87.5 mph on Tuesday night, and it also comes with late downward action. Opposing hitters have to gear up for his fastball, and it's pretty clear that when the changeup comes that they still don't quite know how to handle it. There were only five balls all night put in play by the Orioles that had exit velocities of more than 100 mph, and three of them came from Trey Mancini.
"That is a lot, but it is a weapon," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said of the 42 changeups. "You can see how they were swinging at it. That's just a big equalizer. It can be a strikeout pitch. Get them out front, roll over for some ground balls -- along with his two-seamers. It's fun to watch. He missed all of last year, so it really cut down on his progression, where he was at in his career, but he's starting off the right way."
Sanchez's outing nearly unraveled in the bottom of the eighth. The Blue Jays finally gave him a run in the top half of the inning, but then Timothy Beckham led off the bottom of the frame with a sharp grounder through the legs of Josh Donaldson at third base. The official scorer, somewhat controversially, ruled the play a double, but in the end it didn't really matter because Anthony Santander followed with a clean single. Chance Sisco tied the game at 1 with an ensuing RBI double.
"He was unbelievable," said closer Roberto Osuna, who had a memorable night of his own with his 100th career save. "I was hoping for him to get the no-no, but this is baseball. I think he was great."
That put a pair of runners in scoring position with nobody out. Mancini, who had been making hard contact all night long, then stepped to the plate, but Sanchez got him to hit a weak fly ball to shallow center and later got Jonathan Schoop to hit into an inning-ending double play without any additional runs crossing the board. That bought the Blue Jays enough time for Granderson to become the hero with his ninth-inning homer.
"Sanchy is a pretty composed guy," Gibbons said. "He'll have blowups every now and then. He'll get a little frustrated. He'll bark at the umpire every now and then. We've seen that. But he knows he's good. He knows he has some really good weapons. Really, he was just in total control tonight from the first inning on, and I think he felt good out there."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
The Grandyman can: Sanchez was done after eight innings and was at risk of leaving with a no-decision until Granderson came through in the ninth with a two-out homer off O's reliever Darren O'Day. It was the 25th home run of Granderson's career off the Orioles, which is the most on the Blue Jays roster. According to Statcast™, Granderson's first homer with the Blue Jays was projected to travel 368 feet, and left his bat at 102.3 mph.
"Anything to help us get a W, especially after the performance that Sanchez had tonight," Granderson said. "He did everything he could to give us an opportunity to win. But at the same time, you know, the Orioles pitching staff was pitching great. Tight one at the end and no one could really seem to get anything going across, and once we did, they answered back. Finally, to be able to come up in the end and just get one to go across to help us get the lead to bring it to [closer Roberto] Osuna, so he can get his 100th [save]."
100 saves and counting: Osuna became the youngest pitcher in Major League history to reach 100 saves. Osuna tossed a scoreless ninth to pick up career save No. 100 at 23 years and 62 days old. Francisco Rodriguez held the previous record at 24 years and 246 days.
"I'm really happy with this," Osuna said. "I've been working hard to win games and to do something like this is really special. I feel proud of myself, and all the hard work."
The Blue Jays look for a sweep of their three-game series against the Orioles when Estrada takes the mound on Wednesday night, with first pitch scheduled for 7:05 p.m. ET. Estrada struck out seven with one run allowed over six innings in his last start vs. Texas.
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Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.