BOSTON — Anibal Sanchez and four Detroit Tigers relievers came within two outs of the first combined no-hitter in postseason history, striking out 17 to beat the Boston Red Sox 1-0 Saturday night in the AL championship series opener.
Boston was hitless until Daniel Nava had clean single to center field off Joaquin Benoit with one out in the ninth. Stephen Drew followed Nava and flied out to right and, with the potential tying run on second, Xander Bogaerts hit a game-ending popout to shortstop.
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 their bid for the third postseason no-hitter ever.
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 night.
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.
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.