BOSTON — Anibal Sanchez and four Detroit Tigers relievers came within two outs of the first combined no-hitter in postseason history, striking out 17 to beat the Boston Red Sox 1-0 on Saturday night in the American League Championship Series opener.
Boston was hitless until Daniel Nava singled 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, the AL’s regular-season ERA leader, was pulled after six innings and 116 pitches. Al Albuquerque, Jose Veras, Drew Smyly and Benoit stretched the no-hitter into the ninth before Nava ended their bid for the third postseason no-hitter ever.
Jhonny Peralta had an RBI single off former Augusta GreenJacket Jon Lester in the sixth for the game’s only run. It was a day for pitching in the playoffs – St. Louis knocked off the Dodgers 1-0 in the NLCS.
Sanchez joined Orval Overall of the 1908 Chicago Cubs as the only pitchers to strike out more than three in a postseason inning. Overall did it in the first inning of World Series Game 5.
Sanchez walked the bases loaded in the sixth before striking out Drew to end the inning.
He became the third pitcher in postseason history to pitch hitless ball past the second inning without completing the game, according to STATS. The others were Baltimore’s Mike Cuellar (nine walks in 4⅔ innings) in Game 4 of the 1974 AL Championship Series against Oakland and Seattle’s Paul Abbott (eight walks in five innings) in Game 4 of the 2001 AL Championship Series against the New York Yankees.