BOSTON -- The Tigers' Anibal Sanchez had the kind of night every pitcher dreams of, shutting out the Red Sox without allowing a hit and tying a 105-year-old record in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series at Fenway Park.
In the end, neither Sanchez nor the Tigers made history, but they managed to sneak out with a 1-0 victory, barely missing out on immortality.
Manager Jim Leyland yanked Sanchez after six innings because of a high pitch count generated by 12 strikeouts and six walks, and closer Joaquin Benoit lost the no-hit bid with one out in the ninth.
"I wasn't really worried about a no-hitter," Leyland said. "Woulda been nice, several guys involved."
Four Tigers' relievers tried to finish off the no-no and become part of baseball lore. Al Alburquerque threw a perfect seventh, Jose Veras struck out the only two men he faced in the eighth and Drew Smyly retired David Ortiz on a flyout.
But Daniel Nava's one-out single off Benoit ended that part of the drama and gave the Red Sox a chance to steal the game back. But after pinch-runner Quintin Berry stole second with two outs, Xander Bogaerts popped out to short to end it.
The game-winning hit was provided by Jhonny Peralta, who served a 50-game suspension for being involved in a performance-enhancing drug scandal. Peralta's two-out, RBI single off Jon Lester in the sixth inning made it 1-0, and Sanchez and the bullpen made it hold up.
Clay Buchholz faces Tigers' ace Max Scherzer on Sunday in Game 2.
Sanchez suffered through control problems in the second, when he walked two, and in the sixth, when he loaded the bases with three walks. But he struck out Stephen Drew on a slider to get out of the sixth inning jam, whirling around and pumping his fist as he left the mound.
At 116 pitches, Leyland had little choice but to pull Sanchez, knowing the Tigers will need him later in this series, and possibly the World Series. The only two postseason no-hitters have been thrown by Yankees' pitcher Don Larsen, who had a perfect game against Brooklyn in Game 5 of the 1956 World Series, and the Phillies' Roy Halladay, who tossed a no-hitter against the Reds in the opener of the 2010 National League Division Series.
The first inning was a perfect harbinger of what was in store on a wacky night at Fenway. Sanchez tied a postseason record with a four-strikeout first that came about because of a Shane Victorino strikeout on a wild pitch.
The only other pitcher to accomplish that feat was the Orval Overall against the Tigers in the first inning of their World Series-clinching Game 5 victory in 1908, the Cubs' last championship. Sanchez also became the first Tigers pitcher in history with four strikeouts in one inning.
Lester carried a shutout into the sixth before putting two on with one out, walking Miguel Cabrera and plunking Prince Fielder in the right shoulder. A fielders' choice put runners on the corners with two outs before Peralta dumped a 2-2 curveball in front of Jacoby Ellsbury in center, snapping the scoreless tie.
Red Sox shortstop Stephen Drew made a two-out, snow cone catch of a Fielder pop-up in short center to save a run in the ninth, setting up the dramatic finish.
(c)2013 Chicago Tribune
Visit the Chicago Tribune at www.chicagotribune.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services