SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Through the frustrations of his struggles and a demotion to the bullpen, Jonathan Sanchez remained steadfast he could be an effective major league pitcher.

His standard phrase: “I just want to pitch.” He never wavered, never complained about his fortunes.

The quiet left-hander showed everybody with an improbable no-hitter Friday night for San Francisco against the San Diego Padres, the first by the Giants in nearly 33 years.

What made it even more special for Sanchez was his father, Sigfredo, just happened to have flown in from Puerto Rico to watch his son start for the first time. What a night he chose.

Sanchez was nearly perfect. Third baseman Juan Uribe booted Chase Headley’s grounder with one out in the eighth inning for San Diego’s lone baserunner.

It wasn’t until the final batter — Everth Cabrera — stepped in that Sanchez really allowed himself to think about what was suddenly right within his grasp. Cabrera watched a called third strike sail by, a curveball he briefly argued as the celebration began. That was Sanchez’s career-best 11th strikeout.

“When the inning started, I said, ‘Just keep making your pitches,'” he recalled. “I saw the crowd up and said, ‘Now I’ve got to get this. I can have it.'”

It was the Giants’ 13th no-hitter and first since John Montefusco did it on Sept. 29, 1976, at Atlanta. Their last one in San Francisco came when Ed Halicki no-hit the New York Mets in the second game of a doubleheader on Aug. 24, 1975.

“It’s awesome. I can’t believe I just threw a no-hitter out there,” Sanchez said. “I’ve been struggling the whole year. I just worked on my stuff and it was right tonight. Hopefully next start it will get better.”

He almost lost his no-hit bid in the ninth, but Gold Glove center fielder Aaron Rowand saved the day with a leaping grab at the center-field fence to rob pinch-hitter Edgar Gonzalez for the second out.

“I was going to go up and over and land on the other side of the fence if I had to, to try to make the catch,” Rowand said.

The 26-year-old Sanchez (3-8) was a most unlikely candidate to make history. Now, his gem is the latest great accomplishment for a franchise filled with them — Barry Bonds’ home run records, Randy Johnson’s 300th win last month and all the milestones by a whole cast of Hall of Famers including Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Orlando Cepeda, Juan Marichal and Gaylord Perry.

But who would ever have predicted this a night after Tim Lincecum carried a no-hit bid into the seventh inning? Not Sanchez, not the third southpaw on a pitching staff featuring three former Cy Young Award winners in five-time winner Johnson, reigning NL recipient Lincecum and Barry Zito, the 2002 AL selection while across the bay with the Oakland Athletics.

In fact, Sanchez only got the call in place of the 45-year-old Big Unit, a 303-game winner who went on the disabled list Monday with a strained throwing shoulder. It’s been Johnson who’s helped mentor Sanchez during his tough times and the Big Unit has been impressed with Sanchez’s stuff all along.

Sanchez had been mired in a five-start winless stretch since beating Atlanta on May 25. He used a nearly three-week stint in the bullpen to work on his pitches — and there’s no arguing he’s back on track.

“We had a toast in there and he said, ‘I hope I won’t go back to the pen,'” manager Bruce Bochy said. “I was nervous for the kid watching it.”

So was the dad, who acknowledged biting his nails and bouncing up and down before rushing down for a long embrace once this one was in the books.

“He was here for a reason,” Sanchez said.

Father and son planned a low-key evening together afterward to reflect on this most amazing of outings. Sanchez knew it would be hard to sleep, the Adrenalin still rushing.

“I’m super proud,” his dad said. “When he was a young kid, his nickname was Randy Johnson because he had long hair.”

Johnson was among those quick to reach Sanchez with a celebratory hug. Catcher Bengie Molina missed it after his wife went into labor Friday, giving backup Eli Whiteside a special place in history.

“That’s an unbelievable feeling,” Whiteside said. “I caught two in the minor leagues, but nothing like that.”

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