BOSTON — Former Red Sox prospect Anibal Sanchez and four relievers weren’t quite able to finish off the first combined no-hitter in postseason history Saturday night, coming up just two outs short.
But the five pitchers did pitch the Detroit Tigers to a 1-0 victory over the Boston Red Sox in the opener of the American League Championship Series, leaving the Tigers with a series lead and Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander starting the next two games.
“At this point, especially in this series, it’s not about throwing a no-hitter,” Sanchez said after working six no-hit innings, striking out 12, including four in the first inning, and walking six. “The win is more important than the no-hitter at this point.”
Sanchez, who has thrown a no-hitter in his major league career, struck out Stephen Drew with the bases loaded and two out in the sixth inning, Sanchez’s 116th and final pitch.
Al Alburquerque, Jose Veras, Drew Smyly and Joaquin Benoit (third save of this postseason) followed and Benoit gave up a one-out single to Daniel Nava in the ninth inning. That left the Tigers just shy of only the third no-hitter in postseason history.
Red Sox pinch-runner Quintin Berry stole second with two out in the ninth before rookie Xander Bogaerts popped out to end it.
“My heart was pumping,” said Benoit. “There was nothing I could do after I gave up a hit. All I could do was try to get the final out.”
“The entire bullpen did an absolute terrific job,” Tiger manager Jim Leyland said.
Asked if he got caught up in the no-hitter, Leyland said, “No, not really. Particularly in a place like this because one run (ahead) you almost feel like you’re behind in this ballpark. A walk and one swing of the bat over the Monster … I wasn’t really worried about a no-hitter. It would have been nice to have several guys involved but it worked out fine for us.”
The five Tigers pitchers tied a major league postseason record with 17 strikeouts.
Jhonny Peralta, whose 50-game PED suspension ended just before the postseason, had an RBI single off tough-luck loser Jon Lester (1-1 postseason) in the sixth inning and added two doubles (he was caught off second on a grounder after his fifth-inning double).
The Tigers, looking for a 2-0 lead in the series, send probable Cy Young Award winner Scherzer to the mound against Clay Buchholz on Sunday night before the series shifts to Detroit.
Sanchez (1-1 in the postseason) was the AL ERA king in the regular season but then gave up three home runs in losing to the Oakland Athletics in Game 3 of the ALDS. That was in a big ballpark in Oakland and he was much better against the team that traded him away before he got to the majors.
Back-to-back walks with two out in the sixth led to the Drew strikeout.
Lester yielded the one run and six hits in 6 1/3 innings.
“It was a battle. It stinks that one run did it,” Lester said. “That’s playoff baseball. You give up one run and you like your chances, but sometimes you have to tip your hat to them.
Drew made an over-the-shoulder running catch at short to save two runs in the ninth.
In the first inning, Sanchez became the second pitcher in postseason history (the first since the Chicago Cubs’ Orville Overall in 1908) and the first Tigers pitcher to strike out four batters in one inning. He walked one and fanned four in a first inning extended by a wild pitch on strike three to Shane Victorino, but struck out David Ortiz and Mike Napoli with two men on.
The Tigers became the first team in postseason history to have pitchers open with five no-hit innings in back-to-back games. Justin Verlander did it in Game 5 of the ALDS.
Red Sox manager John Farrell said his team will “be ready to go” in Game 2, noting, “We have the ability to put this behind us when we show up at the ballpark.”
NOTES: Saturday was the first 1-0 postseason game ever at Fenway and marked only the second time the Red Sox have been blanked at home in a postseason game (1918 World Series against the Cubs was the other). … Coupled with the St. Louis Cardinals’ 1-0 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers, Saturday was the first day in postseason history to fashion two 1-0 decisions. … Scherzer is 23-3 this season, counting the two games in the ALDS (he won Game 4 in relief). He is the likely Cy Young Award winner, something Buchholz probably would have battled for had he not gotten hurt. Buchholz was 9-0 with a 1.71 ERA when he went down in June for three months. … Scherzer sported the numbers 41-26 on his sweatshirt Saturday night in honor of alma mater Missouri’s 41-26 upset of No. 7 Georgia on the road earlier in the day. … Before the game, Leyland played down the move that sent SS Peralta to left field, with former Red Sox Jose Iglesias at shortstop. “We’re not making too big a deal out of that,” Leyland said. … Former Red Sox SS Nomar Garciaparra threw out the first pitch.