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The first inning was an indication of which way Saturday night was going to go for the Boston Red Sox in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series against the Detroit Tigers.
Tigers righty Anibal Sanchez tied a postseason record by striking out four batters in the first inning, allowing Shane Victorino to reach base on a wild pitch on a swinging third strike. Sanchez struck his way out of the inning and finished with 12 strikeouts before exiting after six innings of no-hit ball. The Tigers held on for the 1-0 victory at Fenway Park, striking out a nine-inning postseason record 17 batters while keeping the Red Sox hitless until one out in the ninth.
After Daniel Nava broke up the no-hitter with a one-out bloop single in the ninth, Tigers closer Joaquin Benoit got Stephen Drew to fly out to right field and rookie Xander Bogaerts to popout to shortstop for the win.
Sanchez, who surrendered three homers in a Game 3 loss in the ALDS, allowed six base on balls and ran into trouble in the bottom of the sixth when he walked the bases loaded. But Sanchez struck out Drew and pumped his fast while closing out his night to give way to Al Alburquerque in the seventh inning.
“(Sanchez’s) pitch count got up high early but he gave us what we needed,” Detroit manager Jim Leyland told reporters after the game. “We stuck with him (in the sixth) and he came through.
“We didn’t get caught up in the no-hitter, especially here (at Fenway). Even with a 1-0 lead you feel like you are behind one run with that Green Monster out there. We weren’t worried about a no-hitter but it would have been nice with several people involved.”
Jhonny Peralta continues to be the offensive catalyst for a Tigers offense in desperate need of one. After Miguel Cabrera drew a one-out walk, Prince Fielder was hit by a pitch and Victor Martinez‘s ground out to shortstop left runners on the corners with two outs in the top of the sixth inning, Peralta came through with a single to center field on a 2-2 pitch to plate Cabrera for the 1-0 lead.
Peralta, who played in just three regular season games after serving a 50-game suspension for PED use, is 8-for-16 at the plate with six RBIs and an .813 slugging percentage.
Detroit had a chance to break the game open in the ninth inning, but Prince Fielder’s bloop to left field with the bases loaded and two outs was caught in snow-cone style by Red Sox shortstop Stephen Drew to give the Red Sox an opportunity in the ninth.
“We had early opportunities and we have to do a better job hitting with runners in scoring position,” Leyland said. “You are seeing good pitching now. Both games today finished with 1-0 scores. That shows the quality pitching in the postseason.”
And now the Tigers send out their best two pitchers in Games 2 and 3.
American League Cy Young favorite Max Scherzer faces off with Clay Bucholz at 4:30 p.m. Sunday while 2011 Cy Young and MVP Justin Verlander meets John Lackey in Game 3 on Tuesday night at Comerica Park.
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