Strikeouts power Tigers to near no-no

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Jacoby Ellsbury was one of three Red Sox players to strike out three times against the Tigers.

Just two days after Justin Verlander flirted with a no-hitter against the Oakland Athletics, the Detroit Tigers came even closer to making history Saturday against the Boston Red Sox.

The Tigers pitched 8 1/3 no-hit innings before a Daniel Nava single off Joaquin Benoit spoiled the bid. It was the second longest no-hit bid in postseason history, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

Bill Bevens carried a no-hitter 8 2/3 innings for the Yankees in Game 4 of the 1947 World Series before a Cookie Lavagetto walk-off double not only spoiled the no-hitter but gave the Dodgers the win.

The Tigers would hold on to win 1-0, just over five hours after the St. Louis Cardinals beat the Los Angeles Dodgers 1-0. Saturday is the first day in postseason history with two 1-0 games.

While the Cardinals won Saturday in a tidy two hours and 40 minutes, the Tigers-Red Sox game lasted more than an hour longer at 3:56. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it was more than a half hour longer than the previous longest 9-inning, 1-0 game in postseason history (3:23 – 2013 ALDS Game 2).

Tigers match strikeout mark

The Tigers' staff set a major-league record for strikeouts during the regular season, and the team hasn’t slowed since. Anibal Sanchez (12), Al Alburquerque (2), Jose Veras (2) and Joaquin Benoit (1) combined for 17 strikeouts Saturday, matching the most strikeouts by a team in a nine-inning game in postseason history.

Most Strikeouts by Pitching Staff
9-Inning Game Postseason History

Sanchez’s 12 strikeouts were the most by any pitcher against the Red Sox in postseason history. Thanks to a rising pitch count, he was pulled after just six innings, becoming the first pitcher in postseason history to go at least six innings and be pulled with a no-hitter intact.

The Elias Sports Bureau also notes that Sanchez’s 12 strikeouts were the most by a pitcher before he allowed a hit in a postseason game in major-league history. The previous record belonged to Sandy Koufax, who struck out 10 Yankees before allowing a hit in Game 1 of the 1963 World Series.

How Sanchez Won

• Sanchez was able to overcome falling behind in the count. More hitters saw a first-pitch ball (14) than a first-pitch strike (11), but he held Red Sox hitters to 0-for-9 with six strikeouts (and five walks) after falling behind 1-0. The Red Sox had baseball’s best average (.295) and slugging percentage (.502) after getting ahead in the count 1-0 during the regular season.

• Sanchez was able to get the Red Sox to expand their strike zone with two strikes. Hitters chased only 17 percent of his pitches before two strikes but upped that to 41 percent in two-strike counts. Seven of his 12 strikeouts came on pitches out of the zone.

• Sanchez took 17 of the 25 hitters he faced to a two-strike count, retiring 15 of those. He used three pitches to put Red Sox hitters away, getting six outs on his slider (all strikeouts), five outs on his fastball (four strikeouts) and four outs on his changeup (two strikeouts). The Red Sox swung at 20 pitches with two strikes and put only three in play.