San Francisco has two legitimate candidates to start Tuesday's All-Star Game in National League Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain. The Giants have another starter with five Cy Youngs who has thrown one no-hitter and one perfect game in Randy Johnson. And they have a fourth starter with a Cy Young award in Barry Zito.
Yet it was a little known, unheralded underachiever who turned up the heat on the meat-less San Diego Padres on a cool Friday night by the Bay and fired the Giants' first no-hitter since John "The Count" Montefusco in 1976.
Jonathan Sanchez has no such stylish nickname, and he had been bumped from the rotation three weeks ago because he was so ineffective. He had never thrown a complete game in the majors. He had won only two games for the Giants this season, and none since May 25.
Yet for one incredible evening, in an 8-0 triumph, he was as dominant as any of his bigger-named rotation mates has been.
For one incredible evening, he threw the same magic as Juan Marichal and Gaylord Perry, each of whom also produced no-hitters as a Giant.
Now, maybe this is what propels Sanchez to the dizzying heights the Giants have long thought he could attain. And if it does, that should be one scary thought for opponents scheduled to face a team already rich in pitching.
Until now, Sanchez, 26, mostly was one of those names that kept popping up in trade rumors. It happened endlessly last winter.
But Giants general manager Brian Sabean was adamantly against the idea of dealing the rough-around-the-edges left-hander, even though it was clear that what the Giants needed to do was figure out a way to score more runs and maybe Sanchez could have been a chip to help them add those pieces.
But they can pitch with the best of them, and this is why the Giants have a real chance to become the surprise team of 2009.
One night after Lincecum carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning, Sanchez finished the job against the Padres.
He was 2-8 with a 5.30 ERA when he threw his first pitch to rookie Everth Cabrera, just another arm with a lot to learn. He had 68 strikeouts in 69 2/3 innings, but he also had walked 46 and had major difficulty with opponents after the first two times through the order.
Just 109 pitches later, maybe Sanchez sees things now that he didn't before. Granted, the Padres aren't very good -- especially this lineup, with David Eckstein and Brian Giles on the disabled list -- but they still run All-Star Adrian Gonzalez out there.
Sanchez worked his fastball early, got ahead of hitters, and used his curve beautifully. On this night, he didn't struggle with his control. He hit his spots. And he gave the Giants a preview of what could be.
Going into this season, Sabean said he couldn't imagine trading Sanchez because the Puerto Rico native was bigger and stronger.
Four months later, Sanchez remains a work in progress.
But he's never looked bigger, or stronger.
The Giants look pretty good themselves right now, too.