BOSTON -- The Tigers were two outs away from the first combined no-hitter postseason history before Daniel Nava's single to center off closer Joaquin Benoit in the ninth inning put those dreams to bed, but nonetheless five Tigers hurlers combined for a one-hitter in their 1-0 win over the Red Sox in Game 1 of the ALCS Saturday night at Fenway Park.
“I’ll take his game nine times out of ten," Red Sox catcher David Ross said. "We battled our tails off. We had bases loaded and pushed the envelope right there to the end with (Quintin Berry) on second and (Stephen Drew) crushed the ball to right. I’ll take this game. It was playoff baseball, a well-played game, some great defensive plays. If you’re a baseball fan you liked what you saw tonight.”
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In one of the strangest starts in postseason history, Tigers pitcher Anibal Sanchez threw six no-hit innings, but that would be as far as he could go as he walked six forcing him to throw 116 pitches. The Red Sox biggest threat against him came in the sixth inning when he walked the bases loaded, but struck out Drew to end the threat. Aside from his lack of command, Sanchez dominated Red Sox hitters all game long as 12 of the 18 outs he recorded came by the way of the strikeout.
“We just didn’t get any hits, man, that was it," second baseman Dustin Pedroia said. "We had opportunities and he made pitches when he needed to, that was it.”
Al Alburquerque pitched a 1-2-3 seventh inning, Jose Veras (2/3 inning) and Drew Smyly (1/3 inning) the eighth before Benoit the ninth for Detroit.
Following Nava's single, Berry pinch-ran for him and with two outs he stole second with rookie Xander Boagerts at the plate. Bogaerts worked a tough at-bat, showing tremendous poise for a 21-year-old, but flew out to Jose Iglesias ending the game and the threat. Even though the Red Sox didn't have a hit until the last inning they still had plenty of chances going 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position and leaving eight runners on base.
“We had opportunities even though we didn’t have any hits," Pedroia said. "The more chances we get, we’ll come through.”
After five scoreless innings, the Tigers got to Red Sox starter Jon Lester in the sixth plating the first and only run of the game. After a walk to Miguel Cabrera with out out, Prince Fielder grounded into a fielder's choice for the second out of the inning. Victor Martinez then hit a sharp grounder to short where Drew and Dustin Pedroia made a great effort in trying to turn the double play, but Martinez just barely beat the throw at first. The next hitter Jhonny Peralta took advantage by blooping a 2-2 pitch into center field, which scored Cabrera for the first run of the game.
"He didn't square it up," Lester said when asked about Peralta's hit in the sixth. "You're trying to bounce a pitch, but at the same time it's not scolded. He didn't hit a ball in the gap. I liked my chances right there with (Jacoby Ellsbury) coming in on the ball and unfortunately it fell right in front of him.
Lester went 6 1/3 innings allowing the lone run on six hits while striking out four, walking one and hitting two. He once again delivered a solid start as expected of a Game 1 starter. The veteran ran into trouble in the fifth inning, but got Austin Jackson to fly to right field ending the first and third threat, and then after allowing the run in the sixth he got Omar Infante to ground out with runners on first and second.
Junichi Tazawa recorded the final two outs of the seventh inning and Craig Breslow came on for the eighth before Koji Uehara pitched the ninth.
The teams will be right back at it Sunday night for Game 2 (8:15, FOX) where Clay Buchholz will go up against Max Scherzer.
What they'll be saying: It was an extremely strange start for Sanchez as he completely dominated Red Sox hitters -- he just had trouble with his command, thus the reason for the six walks. He became the fourth pitcher in postseason history to throw at least six hitless innings in a game. He also threw the most no-hit innings in a postseason game without completing it. Previous to him, in 2001, Paul Abbott of the Mariners threw five no-hit innings, but walked eight in Game 4 of the ALCS ... Several Red Sox starters are struggling including Mike Napoli who is 0 for his last 8 and Farrell hinted prior to the game Mike Carp could get the start at first on Sunday. Also, with Bogaerts continuing to impress, there's a good chance he could start at third base for Will Middlebrooks ... Just because the Red Sox lost Game 1 it doesn't mean the series is over by any means as in the last 13 ALCS' the team losing Game 1 has gone on to win the series.