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Scott Pianowski

Closing Time: Jonathan Sanchez, three months too late

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For three months Jonathan Sanchez(notes) and Bronson Arroyo(notes) did everything they could to sabotage your team, your ERA and your life. And then on Friday, with basically no one along for the fantasy ride, these two NL arms reminded us of why we wasted our money on them in the first place.

Let's check Sanchez's outing first – when a guy throws a no-hitter, I suppose he has to be the lead of this column. His wildness forced him out of the rotation a few weeks ago (46 free passes in 69.2 innings), but he had brilliant command of his stuff Friday and the mediocre Padres offense didn't have a chance (here's the video to prove it). Sanchez put down 27 of the 28 men he faced – one batter reached on an error – and piled up 11 strikeouts against no walks. Adrian Gonzalez(notes) had a couple of deep fly balls and Edgar Gonzalez stung a ball in the ninth, but otherwise the Friars were never that close to a hit.

Sanchez's no-no was the 14th of the decade, and the names he joins on this list are an accomplished lot (Bill James might call this signature significance – it's hard to throw a no-hitter in the majors without a ridiculous amount of talent in the first place). Most of the no-hit artists from this decade were no-doubt stars (think Randy Johnson(notes)), established pros (Kevin Millwood(notes)) or high-buzz prospects (Clay Buchholz(notes), Anibal Sanchez(notes), heck, Bud Smith) when they turned the trick. Even the six-man no-hitter the Astros pitched at Yankee Stadium in 2003 had star quality to it; Roy Oswalt(notes), Brad Lidge(notes), Octavio Dotel(notes) and Billy Wagner(notes) all worked on that night.

But what the heck do we do with Sanchez after the All-Star break? He had 50 starts and 319 big-league innings under his belt prior to Friday and the results weren't pretty (15-26 record, 5.21 ERA, 1.55 WHIP). He's struck out a batter per inning in The Show, but that doesn't mean a lot when you can't find the strike zone (4.85 BB/9). He wouldn't have even been on the mound Friday had Johnson, ironically enough, not landed on the DL earlier this week. All Sanchez did here, to me, is reaffirm his jaw-dropping upside, but he's not landing on my fantasy roster until I see some evidence that he can locate the strike zone for weeks at a time, not merely for a three-hour period against a mediocre opponent.

The Arroyo show in New York was another case of picking on a weak sister – the Mets lineup is basically David Wright(notes) and a cast of thousands these days. Arroyo changed speeds brilliantly all night (here's the tape) and was able to keep the ball on the ground (15 infield outs), a rarity for him. It's hard to believe this is the same guy who handed out 29 hits, 16 earned runs and six homers over his prior three turns.

Color me unimpressed – fantasy greatness isn't affirmed just because you can throw the ball past guys like Alex Cora(notes) and Brian Schneider(notes) for one night. Arroyo still has 21 homers on his resume for the year, and 41 walks against 59 strikeouts. Cincinnati's park isn't getting any bigger. Appreciate the mirage and keep your hands far away from the add/drop button.

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It's always interesting when teams make a "challenge trade" – swapping guys who play the same position – and that's what went down Friday when the Braves shipped Jeff Francoeur to the Mets for Ryan Church. It's not clear if Church will be a full-time player in Atlanta – Bobby Cox loves his platoons – but the Braves simply are happy to be off the Francouer roller coaster at this point. Frenchy figures to be the regular right fielder in New York, but he's looked messed up at the plate most of the year (.250/.282/.352), and trust me, NL East pitchers know how to get him out. I'm not more bullish on either player after this swap, though Francoeur does get some extra job security from the move.

Matt Kemp(notes) continued to hit from the No. 8 slot (three hits, grand slam at Milwaukee) and Andre Ethier(notes) had another tater from the two slot. The ball was jumping at Miller Park – even Russell Martin(notes) hit one out for the victorious Dodgers. Neither closer was sharp here; Trevor Hoffman(notes) had a rare blown save, and Jonathan Broxton(notes) struggled in his frame (three hits, two runs), though he was able to protect a four-run lead.

I'll admit up front that I'm rooting for the Brian Bannister(notes) story. He's a thinking man's pitcher, a frank and fascinating interview and someone who's helped fantasy teams of late (five useful starts out of six). He didn't get a win Friday but anyone who posts an outstanding line at Fenway Park gets my attention (7.2 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 4 BB, 7 K). I know it's hard to trust him against Tampa (most likely) next week, but I'm willing to take a spin in deeper mixed groups; a notable ground-ball spike this year is helping Bannister keep the ball in the park, and he's also trimmed the line-drive rate.

Same story for Cliff Lee(notes) – seven strong innings, just three runs allowed, eight strikeouts, and just about no help from his teammates (the Tribe scored just once against Edwin Jackson(notes)). Marcus Thames(notes) added a late homer for the Tigers, his fourth of the month.

Injury Blog: Broken halos all over the place, as Torii Hunter(notes) (abductor) and Vladimir Guerrero(notes) (knee) both landed on the DL Friday. Hunter probably won't be gone for anything significantly longer than the minimum time, but I have zero faith in Vlad for the balance of the season. … Geovany Soto(notes) (oblique) was put on the DL and could miss up to a month. … Ryan Doumit(notes) (wrist) came off the DL Friday and went 0-for-4 at Philly. It could take him a while to find his best stroke; he was just 2-for-24 during his rehab assignment. … Raul Ibanez(notes) (groin) also returned Friday but Charlie Manuel let him rest for a night. Ibanez is expected to play Saturday and Sunday. … Roy Oswalt worked six strong innings against Washington, then left with "finger numbness." Cecil Cooper downplayed the significance of the injury after the game. … Troy Glaus(notes) (shoulder) is ready to start what is expected to be a lengthy rehab assignment. He's still having some issues with his throwing. … Aubrey Huff's(notes) groin injury isn't a big deal, apparently; he started Friday and went 0-for-4. The Orioles also got Brian Roberts(notes) and Cesar Izturis(notes) back in the lineup. … The Mets are hoping John Maine(notes) (shoulder) can return at the end of the month.

Speed Round: Most of Joba Chamberlain's(notes) messy starts have come in New York, but the road wasn't kind to him in Orange County Friday (4.1 IP, 5 R, 4 ER). He's been a notable loss player through the first three months. … Nelson Cruz(notes) got back into the Texas lineup and talked Brad Evans off the ledge, roping a two-run homer and adding another hit. Cruz was also named to the American League All-Star team, for what it's worth. … Pablo Sandoval(notes) homered and stole a base opposite the Sanchez gem; the Kung Fu Panda is up to .331 with 14 homers, 53 RBIs and tasty catcher eligibility in the Y! world. … Ricky Nolasco(notes) had plenty of stuff in the desert (eight whiffs), but the Diamondbacks hit a few mistakes (seven runs). On the other side, the Marlins couldn't do a thing against Dan Haren(notes), as you'd expect (four-hit shutout, 10 strikeouts, one walk). … The A's are going to give Brett Anderson(notes) another day to rest before he pitches this weekend; he'll go Sunday at Tampa, not Saturday. The kid is a keeper but I can't start him on the road against the best offense in the majors. … If you can figure out why the Royals traded for Yuniesky Betancourt, explain it to me, please. … Tommy Hanson(notes) was optioned to Triple-A merely as a wrap-around move during the break, a common move you'll see with young pitchers. He'll be back in a few days. … I can't explain why it happened, but Derek Lowe(notes) was sharp in six Colorado innings en route to his eighth win. Get back to the boiler room and sell high, amigos. … Alfonso Soriano(notes) returned to the Cubs lineup Friday, while Milton Bradley(notes) replaced him in the temporary doghouse. Bradley might not play Saturday, either. … Albert Pujols(notes) is ridiculous and Rich Harden(notes) is maddening. You take it from there.

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Photos via US Presswire

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