Tigers win ALCS opener in near-no-hitter
By Jimmy Golen ,APBOSTON -- Detroit came out on top of a pitchers' duel to beat Boston 1-0 in Saturday's opening game of the American League Championship Series.
October 14, 2013, 12:13 am TWN
Tigers' starter Anibal Sanchez and four relievers came within two outs of the first combined no-hitter in postseason history, striking out 17.
Boston was hitless until Daniel Nava singled off Joaquin Benoit with one out in the ninth.
After a second out and, with the potential tying run on second base, Xander Bogaerts hit a game-ending popout to shortstop.
Jhonny Peralta had an RBI single off Jon Lester in the sixth inning for the game's only run.
Peralta, who missed most of August and September while serving a 50-game suspension for violating baseball's drug rules, was taunted with chants of “Steroids!” and “User!” as he looped a single to center to bring home Miguel Cabrera.
Sanchez struck out 12 — including a record-tying four in the first inning — but also walked a season-high six and was pulled after six innings and 116 pitches. Al Alburquerque, Jose Veras, Drew Smyly and Benoit stretched the no-hitter into the ninth before Nava ended the no-hitter bid.
That won't matter to the Tigers, who took a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven series. Boston's Clay Buchholz will face major league wins leader Max Scherzer in Game 2 on Sunday.
It was a day for pitching in the playoffs — St. Louis beat the Dodgers 1-0 in the NLCS.
“That tells you the quality of pitching in the postseason,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. “We've got to do a lot better with our opportunities, but in this one we were able to hold on.”
Boston, the majors' highest-scoring team during the regular season, was shut out at Fenway Park in the postseason for the first time in 95 years.
The AL's regular-season ERA champion, Sanchez loaded the bases in the sixth on three walks. But he struck out Stephen Drew to end the inning, coming off the mound with a celebratory arm pump and high leg kick.
Alburquerque pitched a perfect seventh, Veras got two outs and Smyly retired David Ortiz on a fly ball to center to end the eighth.
Boston's Drew kept the score close in the bottom of the eighth, racing into shallow center field to make a juggling, over-the-shoulder catch on Prince Fielder's mistimed hit with runners on second and third.
In all, Lester gave up six hits and a walk in 6 1/3 innings.
Two nights after teammate Justin Verlander took a no-hit bid into the seventh to finish off Oakland in the AL Division Series, Sanchez followed in similar fashion. His four strikeouts in the first inning — thanks to a third-strike wild pitch to Shane Victorino — tied the major league record for a postseason game set by the Cubs' Orval Overall in the 1908 World Series.
It's the first time in baseball postseason history a team has had back-to-back games in which its starting pitcher had a no-hitter through five innings.
The Tigers got the only run they needed in the sixth after Cabrera drew a one-out walk and moved to second when Fielder was hit by a pitch. Victor Martinez hit a sharp grounder to short for the force at second, but he beat the relay throw to first by inches to keep the inning alive.
Peralta then knocked a 2-2 pitch to center to score Cabrera from third.