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updated: 10/13/2013 12:40 AM

Tigers nearly no-hit Red Sox, win ALCS opener

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  • Tigers relief pitcher Joaquin Benoit -- one of five Detroit pitchers in what came perilously close to becoming the first combined no-hitter in postseason history -- throws against the Boston Red Sox in Saturday's ninth inning of Game 1 of the ALCS.

      Tigers relief pitcher Joaquin Benoit -- one of five Detroit pitchers in what came perilously close to becoming the first combined no-hitter in postseason history -- throws against the Boston Red Sox in Saturday's ninth inning of Game 1 of the ALCS.
    Associated Press

 
Associated Press

BOSTON -- The highest-scoring team in the majors got its only hit with one out in the ninth inning.

Tough for the Boston Red Sox to win a game like that.

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Daniel Nava's clean single to center field broke up the Detroit Tigers' bid for the third no-hitter in postseason history but couldn't spark a rally as the Red Sox lost 1-0 in Game 1 of the AL championship series Saturday night.

Game 2 is Sunday night, with Max Scherzer pitching for Detroit against Clay Buchholz.

The Red Sox tied the major league postseason record for a nine-inning game by striking out 17 times against Anibal Sanchez and four relievers. They did draw six walks -- all against Sanchez, who left after six innings and 116 pitches. He also threw two wild pitches.

Relievers Al Alburquerque, Drew Smyly and Jose Veras held the Red Sox hitless the next two innings, and closer Joaquin Benoit struck out Mike Napoli leading off the ninth. Then Nava got Boston's only hit when he was jammed but dropped the single in front of Austin Jackson. Benoit finished up by retiring Stephen Drew and Xander Bogaerts.

"It was one of those nights," Nava said of the near no-hitter. "You never want it to happen -- ever."

Boston squandered another outstanding start by ace Jon Lester. He allowed one run and six hits in 6 1-3 innings.

He also pitched the opener of the AL division series, a 12-2 rout of the Tampa Bay Rays in which he gave up just two runs and three hits in 7 2-3 innings.

"It was a battle. It stinks that one run did it," Lester said. "That's playoff baseball."

It was a bad night from the start for the Red Sox.

Jacoby Ellsbury led off the first by striking out. Shane Victorino followed with another strikeout but reached first on a wild pitch and then stole second.

No problem for Sanchez, who led the AL in ERA.

After walking Dustin Pedroia, he struck out the next two batters to become the second pitcher in postseason history to fan four hitters in an inning and the first since Orval Overall of the Chicago Cubs in Game 5 of the 1908 World Series.

Sanchez left after striking out 12 in six innings. But the whiffs kept coming.

Boston fanned twice in the seventh against Alburquerque and twice more in the eighth against Veras.

The Red Sox had their chances earlier.

They left runners at second in each of the first two innings then went down in order in each of the next three before leaving the bases loaded in the sixth.

Pedroia walked with one out before David Ortiz struck out for the second time. Sanchez walked the next two hitters to load the bases, but manager Jim Leyland stuck with his wild and tiring right-hander.

Smart move.

Sanchez struck out Drew with his last pitch, then whirled in front of the mound and punched the air in celebration.

"We had the bases loaded with two outs," Lester said. "You'd think maybe we can catch a break, but they just kept on making pitches."

At times, Detroit catcher Alex Avila might have been as baffled as Boston's batters.

"Usually they get hits against guys that are wild," Avila said. "Anibal was wild, but he had great stuff. A lot of times I don't think he knew where it was going. I know I didn't."

On a pitching staff with Scherzer and Justin Verlander, who took a no-hitter into the seventh inning of Thursday night's win over the Oakland Athletics in Game 5 of the AL division series, Sanchez might get overlooked.

But his performance Saturday wasn't a total surprise to Red Sox manager John Farrell.

"I wouldn't say unexpected. He came in as the league leader in ERA," Farrell said. "Whether it was Sanchez or every guy they brought out of the bullpen, it was power stuff."

Next up for the Red Sox: Scherzer, the AL Cy Young Award favorite.

"We have the ability to put tonight behind us," Farrell said. "We'll be ready to go."

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