Anibal Sanchez flirted with a no-hitter again, then had to watch from the bench as Boston’s Daniel Nava fought a pitch into center field to break it up in the ninth, and Quintin Berry came in as a pinch runner to make it 27 of 27 on the base paths and threatened the Tigers 1-0 lead. However, relief ace Joaquin Benoit (2.01 ERA) was able to induce a full-count towering popup from Xander Boegaerts to preserve the win for the best pitching staff against the best offense in the league.
Earler in the day the scenario was reversed, with the best offense in the NL (Cardinals) beating the best NL pitching staff (Dodgers based on www.valueaddbaseball.com) by an identical 1-0 score.
Sanchez came close to a no-hitter May 24, but Game 1 of the ALCS was too important to let him try to finish it after six no-hit innings during which he struck out 12 Red Sox. No problem, the bullpen finished the effort for the second 1-0 win of the day.
Jon Lester was almost as strong, and gave up his only run in the sixth inning despite not allowing any hard hit balls. Lester gave up his only walk of the night to Miguel Cabrera with one out in the sixth, then hit Prince Fielder. Victor Martinez then grounded into a fielder’s choice to leave two outs in the inning with men on the corners, and Jhonny Peralta managed to barely get a hit into center field to make the score 1-0.
Sanchez did not have nearly the control Lester had, walking six in six innings. But he was more overpowering, registering 12 of the Tigers first 17 strikeouts en route to the win.
Al Alburquerque struck out two in the seventh, Jose Veras struck out the two he faced in the seventh, and then Drew Smyly came in to get the final out of the inning. That set up closer Joaquin Benoit who came through with a 2.01 ERA this season and struck out six in his three relief appearances in wins against the A’s.
Benoit painted the outside corner to strike out Mike Napoli and get the Tigers two outs from becoming the first team to every throw a playoff no-hitter on the road.
Daniel Nava then fought off a pitch into centerfield to end the no-hitter, and enable Quintin Berry – who is 27 of 27 stealing bases – to try to get into scoring position.
With Berry still on first base, Stephen Drew just missed being the hero with a deep drive to right-center but it was caught. Berry then stole second base to put the tying run in scoring position.
Xander Boegaerts, who came into play third base late in the game, then fouled off a 2-2 pitch before drawing a full count before hitting a towering infield popup that was squeezed by shortstop Jose Iglesias.