BOSTON -- Boston Strong was turned into Boston strong-armed in historic fashion in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series. Five Detroit Tigers pitchers combined to hold the Red Sox hitless for 8 1/3 innings while striking out 17, tying the postseason record for a nine-inning game, in claiming a 1-0 victory.
The Tigers, the last team to throw a no-hitter at the Red Sox in Fenway Park (Jim Bunning, July 20, 1958), nearly duplicated the feat here before a sellout crowd of 38,120 that until Saturday night had never before laid eyes on former Sox prospect Anibal Sanchez on Yawkey Way but got an eyeful from the Venezuelan right-hander.
Sanchez became the first pitcher in postseason history to be pulled with a no-hitter in progress (6 innings or more), six walks and a dozen strikeouts driving up his pitch count to an untenable 116 pitches after six innings.
On a cool night with a steady breeze blowing in off Boston Harbor, Detroit manager Jim Leyland used four more relievers to hold the Sox hitless until Daniel Nava lined a single to center off Tigers closer Joaquin Benoit with one out in the ninth.
Nava was replaced by pinch runner Quintin Berry, who last season for the Tigers stole 21 bases without being caught. When Benoit nervously missed badly with his first two pitches to Stephen Drew, pitching coach Jeff Jones came to the mound for a visit. Drew flied to right for the second out, and with a 1-and-0 count on Sox rookie Xander Bogaerts, who had entered the game as a defensive replacement in the eighth inning, Berry stole second with a headfirst slide.
Bogaerts, who turned 21 on Oct. 1, had walked twice and scored tying and insurance runs in the deciding Game 4 of the ALDS. The native of Oranjestad, Aruba, laid off a tough changeup to run the count to 3-and-2, but popped up on the next pitch, the ball gathered into glove of Tigers shortstop Jose Iglesias, who had been deemed expendable by Bogaerts, leading to his trading-deadline acquisition by Detroit.
The only run of the game came in the sixth, when Sox starter Jon Lester issued a one-out walk to Miguel Cabrera and hit Prince Fielder with a pitch. The Sox nearly pulled off an inning-ending double play when Victor Martinez grounded to Drew, but the former Sox catcher barely beat Dustin Pedroia’s relay in the estimation of first-base umpire Rob Drake, whose judgment appeared to be supported by replays.
Jhonny Peralta, who had missed 50 games after being suspended for his role in the Biogenesis PED scandal, then lined a hanging curveball from Lester into center field for a base hit, Cabrera scoring.
The only two Sox batters in the starting lineup not to strike out were third baseman Will Middlebrooks and catcher David Ross. Sox manager John Farrell pinch-hit for both players in the seventh against reliever Al Alburquerque and came up empty, Mike Carp grounding to short and Jarrod Saltalamacchia striking out on three pitches.
There have been three occasions in which teams have whiffed 17 in the postseason, the last by Bobby Valentine’s New York Mets in the 2000 NL Division Series against the San Francisco Giants. Kevin Brown (16) and Trevor Hoffman (1) of the Padres combined to strike out 17 in the 1998 NL Division Series versus Houston, while Bob Gibson of the Cardinals single-handedly K’d 17 Tigers in the 1968 World Series.
The Red Sox, the highest-scoring team in the majors, hit just three balls to the outfield until Nava’s single. Middlebrooks flied out to left in the second inning and Pedroia lined out to center on a first-pitch cutter in the third against Sanchez. David Ortiz flied out to end the eighth against Tigers’ left-hander Drew Smyly.