BOSTON – Lose the no-hitter, win the game.
That’s a trade Anibal Sanchez and the Detroit Tigers were happy to make to take the lead over the Boston Red Sox in the A.L. championship series.
Sanchez and four relievers came within two outs of the first combined no-hitter in postseason history, striking out 17 to beat Boston 1-0 in the series opener on Saturday night.
“I wasn’t worried about a no-hitter,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. “Would have been nice. There were several guys involved. But it worked out well for us.”
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 Joaquin Benoit stretched the no-hitter through eight innings.
With one out in the ninth, Daniel Nava lined a single to center field off Benoit to end Detroit’s bid for the third postseason no-hitter.
Stephen Drew flied out to right and, with the potential tying run on second, Xander Bogaerts hit a game-ending popout to shortstop that put the Tigers ahead in the best-of-seven series. Boston’s Clay Buchholz will face major league wins leader Max Scherzer in Game 2 tonight.
Jhonny Peralta had an RBI single off Jon Lester in the sixth 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.
The majors’ highest-scoring team during the regular season, the Red Sox were shut out at Fenway Park in the postseason for the first time in 95 years. The A.L.’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.
“Whether it was Sanchez or every guy they brought out of the bullpen, it was power stuff,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said.