Although their combined no-hitter was broken up by a Daniel Nava single in the top of the ninth, the Detroit Tigers quintet of Anibal Sanchez, Al Alburquerque, Jose Veras, Drew Smyly and Joaquin Benoit stole the show in Boston on Saturday night en route to a 1-0 victory in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series. Sanchez, who struck out twelve over six no-hit innings, was satisfied with how he bounced back from his last start in Game 3 of the ALDS against Oakland, in which he surrendered six earned runs and three home runs over 4.1 innings of work.
"I just tried to be really aggressive, because I know what [the Red Sox] have done all year long," Sanchez said. "I just tried to keep my ball down and keep it in the strike zone."
Although Sanchez had a no-hitter going through six innings, his six walks on the evening caused his pitch count to soar to 116. The right-hander noted that he was not concerned about achieving his second career no-hitter.
"In this series, it's not about throwing a no-hitter or anything like that," Sanchez said. "If you get zeros inning-by-inning and go hitter-by-hitter getting people out, that's more important. I think the win is more important than the no-hitter at this point."
The Red Sox did not register any hits until the ninth inning, but did have their fair share of opportunities throughout the game due to walks and wild pitches. After leaving men on first and second in the first two innings, Boston's biggest threat came in the sixth inning, when Sanchez walked Dustin Pedroia, Mike Napoli and Daniel Nava before striking out Stephen Drew to end the inning.
"I just tried to get ahead," Sanchez said of Drew's at-bat. "They had the bases loaded in a really close game, so I tried to get ahead. I just tried to relax and make good pitches to get him out. I wasn't sure if I would strike him out at that point, I just threw the pitch for a strike.
Red Sox starter Jon Lester was also strong, allowing one earned run and six hits over 6.1 innings of work while striking out four. The Tigers only run of the game came in the sixth inning when a Miguel Cabrera walk and Prince Fielder hit-by-pitch led to a Jhonny Peralta RBI single. Because of Peralta's recent suspension due to his involvement with the Biogenesis scandal, the fans at Fenway jeered him loudly throughout the game.
"I try not to pay attention to what the fans do," Peralta said. "It's a motivator for me to go to home plate and try to work hard everyday. I try not to listen to what people say, I try to concentrate everyday in the game and do my job."
Home plate umpire Joe West was the center of controversy throughout the game, and many Red Sox hitters took exception to his seemingly-wide strike zone throughout the evening. Manager John Farrell complimented the Tigers' pitching staff by saying that his team's offensive woes were a result of Detroit's talent, and not an umpiring problem.
"I can't say that there was an issue with the umpiring," Farrell said. "That would be taking away from the talent that their pitching staff has. They had very good stuff. Whether it was a three-day layoff for us or not, I don't want to say it's just that. They're a talented group, and they had power stuff and executed very well. There might have been a couple of pitches that were 'pitcher's pitches' that seemed to go against us, but to say that the umpiring was the reason we didn't get a hit until the ninth inning would be a little short-sighted on my part."
The Red Sox made the game's ending in dramatic in the ninth, with Nava singling with one out to end Detroit's no-hit bid. After a Stephen Drew flyout to the warning track, pinch-runner Quintin Berry stole second with two outs in the inning. Rookie Xander Bogaerts worked a seven-pitch at-bat against Benoit, but ultimately popped out to Tigers' shortstop Jose Iglesias, who Bogaerts replaced after a mid-season trade.