MIAMI – In this year of sensational rookies, Anibal Sanchez came up with the greatest performance yet — a no-hitter in his 13th career start.
"This is the best moment of my life," the 22-year-old Venezuelan said.
One of four rookies in the Marlins' rotation, Sanchez (7-2) walked four and pitched around an error. He struck out six and threw 103 pitches.
He finished it off in quick fashion in the ninth. Sanchez struck out Conor Jackson swinging on a 1-2 pitch, got Luis Gonzalez to pop out to third, then retired Eric Byrnes on a sharp grounder to shortstop Hanley Ramirez, whose throw to first easily beat the runner.
"The last ground ball, I wasn't going to flub that," Ramirez said. "It wasn't going to get past me."
The Marlins poured out of the dugout en masse and swarmed around Sanchez, with the jubilant mob collectively hopping as one between the mound and third base.
Sanchez' teammates then hoisted him on their shoulders as he pointed his fingers and thrust his fists to the crowd, where his wife was in stands.
"She was there," Sanchez said, his eyes wet with tears of joy. "I don't know, I can't say any more. I love her, I love my family."
The previous no-hitter in the majors was a perfect game by Arizona's Randy Johnson, who beat Atlanta 2-0 on May 18, 2004. The prior no-hitter by a rookie was by Bud Smith of St. Louis, who beat San Diego 4-0 on Sept. 1, 2001.
The Diamondbacks came close to a hit several times. Florida left fielder Josh Willingham sprinted in to make a diving catch and rob Chad Tracy with two on to end the fourth. Ramirez ranged to his left to snare a grounder by Stephen Drew in the seventh, then whirled and threw to beat the runner by half a step.
Sanchez greeted Ramirez coming off the field with a high-five and a slap on the rear.
Ramirez repaid the favor after making the last out, smashing a shaving-cream filled towel in Sanchez' face as he spoke to the television cameras.
"Maybe I'll have to shave after the game," Sanchez quipped.
Then he switched to Spanish, acknowledging his family in Venezuela.
A rare 4-3-6 double play ended the eighth. With Craig Counsell at first, Orlando Hudson hit a grounder to second baseman Dan Uggla, who missed a swipe at Counsell and threw to first. First baseman Mike Jacobs' relay to second retired Counsell.
The hardest-hit ball was in the sixth by Byrnes, who pulled a line drive that third baseman Miguel Cabrera reached up to snare with two hands.
Arizona's Carlos Quentin hit a sharp grounder down the line in the fifth. Cabrera made a backhanded stop on one knee, then rose and threw wide, pulling Jacobs off the bag.
Official scorer Ron Jernick charged Cabrera with an error, prompting cheers from the small crowd. The Marlins are next-to-last in the NL in defense.
Sanchez is not considered one of the Marlins' half-dozen contenders for NL Rookie of the Year, but he improved his ERA as a starter to 2.28. The right-hander is one of 21 rookies to play this season for the Marlins, the youngest team in the major leagues.
Announced attendance was 12,561, but the actual crowd was perhaps half that. The surprising Marlins are last in the major leagues in attendance even though they began the night only three games behind San Diego in the NL wild-card race.
The Diamondbacks have lost seven of their past eight games and 15 of 19 to fade from the playoff race.
Joe Borchard and Miguel Cabrera hit solo homers for Florida.
Sanchez retired the first 10 batters, then fell behind Jackson 3-0 and walked him on a 3-2 pitch. He then walked Gonzalez on four pitches, but Byrnes lined out, and Willingham's skidding catch in left ended the inning.
Gonzalez walked again on four pitches before Byrnes again lined out to end the sixth.
Sanchez's longest previous start was seven innings. He walked pinch-hitter Counsell on a 3-2 pitch with one out in the eighth, but the double play ended the inning.
Arizona's Edgar Gonzalez (1-2), recalled from Triple-A Tucson to make his third start of season, pitched six-plus innings and allowed five hits and two runs, both on homers.
Borchard hit his ninth home run in the second inning to tie a career high. Cabrera hit his 24th homer in the fourth.
The no-hitter was the fourth in the Marlins' 14-season history, and the first since A.J. Burnett threw one against San Diego on May 12, 2001. The only other pitcher to no-hit the Diamondbacks was Jose Jimenez of St. Louis, who beat Arizona 1-0 on June 25, 1999.
Florida acquired Sanchez last November in the trade that sent Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell to the Boston Red Sox. He went 3-6 this season for Double-A Carolina before joining the Marlins, and on June 25 became the second starting pitcher in 10 seasons to win his major-league debut as a visitor at Yankee Stadium.
As memorable as that day may have been, it will forever pale in comparison.
"I'm going to remember this," Sanchez said, "every morning, every day."