Anibal Sanchez and the Detroit Tigers missed out on a slice of baseball history on Saturday, but still beat Boston 1-0 in game one of the American League Championship Series.
Tigers starter Sanchez and four Detroit relievers came within two outs of tossing the first combined no-hitter in Major League post-season history.
Instead they settled for a one-hit shut-out and a 1-0 lead over the Red Sox in the best-of-seven series that will send the winner to the World Series.
Jhonny Peralta drove in the game’s only run in the sixth inning.
Sanchez, Al Alburquerque, Jose Veras, Drew Smyly and Joaquin Benoit piled up a Tigers record 17 strikeouts.
Sanchez struck out 12 — including four in the first inning — over six hitless frames.
However, he also issued six walks and had thrown 116 pitches when he was pulled to start the seventh inning.
Alburquerque, Veras and Smyly kept the no-hitter intact over the next two innings before Benoit took over to start the ninth.
The right-hander struck out Mike Napoli to open the last inning, but Daniel Nava smacked a single to shallow center field to give the Red Sox their first hit of the night.
Benoit responded by inducing Stephen Drew to fly out, and Xander Bogaerts popped out to shortstop to end the game.
“Besides the no-hitter, the most important thing is to win,” Sanchez said. “They’ve got a pretty good team, they’ve got a pretty good lineup... We need to continue to play like that.”
“Today I just tried to put the ball on the corners,” he said. “I didn’t want to miss anything in the middle — that’s why I had a lot of walks. I just tried to get the guys out.”
Red Sox starter Jon Lester took the loss, although he surrendered just one run on six hits with one walk in 6-1/3 innings.
He was touched for a run in the sixth, after issuing a one-out walk to Miguel Cabrera and hitting Prince Fielder with a pitch. Victor Martinez reached first base on a fielder’s choice ground ball to shortstop, advancing Cabrera to third.
Peralta, who served a 50-game suspension for links to the Biogenesis doping scandal, then lined an RBI single to center to score Cabrera.
CARDINALS V DODGERS
AFP, St LOUIS, Missouri
Rising prospect Michael Wacha outdueled former Cy Young Award-winner Clayton Kershaw on Saturday, leading St Louis to a 1-0 victory over the Dodgers and a 2-0 lead in the National League Championship Series.
Five days after he took a no-hitter into the eighth inning to keep the Cardinals alive in Game 4 of the division series against Pittsburgh, rookie pitcher Wacha limited the Los Angeles lineup to five hits, striking out eight in 6 2/3 innings in his second career playoff appearance.
Four St Louis relief pitchers preserved the shutout, with Trevor Rosenthal striking out the side in the ninth to seal the Cardinals’ second victory in as many days.
The Cardinals had won the opening game of the best-of-seven series on Friday night 3-2, when Carlos Beltran delivered the walk-off run-scoring single in the 13th inning.
Beltran was full of praise for the Cardinals’ young pitching star.
“Unbelievable, being able to pitch the way he did today,” Beltran said. “He put himself in a couple of jams and being able to get out ... that was incredible.”
The winners of the series, which shifts to Los Angeles for Game Three today, advance to Major League Baseball’s championship World Series, where they will face the winners of the American League Championship Series between the Boston Red Sox and Detroit Tigers.
The Cardinals will send ace Adam Wainwright to the mound today, while the Dodgers will give the ball to South Korean rookie Ryu Hyun-jin.
“We’re in a hole now, but we’re not out of it yet,” Kershaw said. “We’ve got three games at home to get right back in this thing and that’s the plan.”
The Dodgers were without a brace of banged-up regulars, with shortstop Hanley Ramirez and center fielder Andre Ethier both sitting out.
Ramirez was hit in the ribs by a pitch in Friday’s contest, while Ethier is still struggling with a sprained ankle that has troubled him for much of the month.
The Dodgers will be hoping the move to their home ground in Chavez Ravine will mark a change in fortunes. They did not manage a hit against the St Louis bullpen and have now gone 19 innings without scoring.
All-Star left-hander Kershaw did what he could, surrendering just two hits and a walk and striking out five before he was taken out for a pinch-hitter in the top of the seventh.
However, a passed ball by catcher A.J. Ellis in the fifth inning led to an unearned run that was all the offense St Louis needed.
Ellis said “it hurts” to be down 0-2 after strong outings from starting pitchers Zack Greinke and Kershaw.
“It was a couple of tough ballgames,” Ellis said. “Now we will see what we are made of.”