BOSTON -- The Tigers’ Anibal Sanchez had the kind of night every pitcher dreams of Saturday night, 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.
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.
Sanchez was pulled by manager Jim Leyland after six innings because of a high pitch count generated by 12 strikeouts and six walks, and closer Joaquin Benoit lost the no-hitter with one out in the ninth.
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 the no-hit bid and gave the Red Sox a chance to steal it back. After Nava stole second with two outs, Xander Bogaerts popped out to short to end it.
Making the night even wackier, 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.
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, whirling around and pumping his fist as he left the mound.
At 116 pitches, Leyland had no choice but to pull Sanchez, knowing the Tigers will need him later in the series. The only two postseason no-hitters were thrown by Yankees’ Don Larsen, who had a perfect game against the Brooklyn Dodgers 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.
Sanchez tied a postseason record with his four-strikeout first inning, which was aided by a strikeout on a wild pitch by Shane Victorino. The only other pitcher to accomplish that feat was the Cubs’ Orval Overall against the Tigers in the 1908 World Series.