BOSTON -- Anibal Sanchez and four Detroit Tigers relievers came within two outs of the first combined no-hitter in post-season 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 centre 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 post-season 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 today 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 centre 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 post-season," 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 post-season for the first time in 95 years.
The AL'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 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. "To chase a very good starter after six innings, I thought we succeeded in that right."
Alburquerque pitched a perfect seventh, Veras got two and Smyly retired David Ortiz on a harmless fly ball to centre to end the eighth. Drew kept the score close for Boston in the bottom of the eighth, racing into shallow centre field to make a juggling, over-the-shoulder catch on Prince Fielder's looper with runners on second and third.
Benoit struck out Mike Napoli to start the ninth before Nava singled to end the no-hit bid.
In all, Lester gave up six hits and a walk, striking out four in 61/3 innings.
Two nights after Justin Verlander took a no-hit bid into the seventh to finish off Oakland in the AL division series, Sanchez followed in similar fashion. His four strikeouts in the first inning -- thanks to a third-strike wild pitch to Shane Victorino -- tied the major league record for a post-season game set by the Cubs' Orval Overall in the 1908 World Series.
It's the first time in post-season history a team has had back-to-back games in which its starting pitcher had a no-hitter through five innings.
On a brisk night with the wind blowing in from centre, the Tigers got the only run they needed in the sixth after Cabrera drew a one-out walk and moved to second when Prince Fielder was hit by a pitch. Victor Martinez hit a sharp grounder to short for the force at second, but he beat the relay throw to first by inches to keep the inning alive.
Peralta then knocked a 2-2 pitch to centre to score Cabrera.
-- The Associated Press