That the Red Sox avoided the historical ignominy of being no-hit in a postseason game was hardly any consolation Saturday night. The Tigers now control the American League Championship Series after a 1-0 victory at Fenway Park.
The Sox did not get a hit until Daniel Nava singled with one out in the ninth inning. But Detroit held on and now leads the best-of-seven series with Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander starting the next two games.
“The team that wins has to win four games,” Dustin Pedroia said. “It was tough, we didn’t score. But we’ll come back.”
Detroit starter Anibal Sanchez and four relievers struck out 17 Sox, tying a major league postseason record. Sanchez struck out 12 and did not allow a hit over six innings, but also walked six and left after 116 pitches.
The no-hitter continued into the ninth inning before a disbelieving crowd of 38,210. Tigers closer Joaquin Benoit struck out Mike Napoli to start the inning. Nava fouled off three two-strike pitches before lining a fastball to center field.
“We had been battling all night,” Nava said. “Fortunately I got that one to fall to try to set something up. We had a shot there.”
Quintin Berry ran for Nava. Stephen Drew got ahead in the count before flying out to right field. With 21-year-old rookie Xander Bogaerts up, Berry stole second base.
Bogaerts worked the count full before popping to shortstop to end the game.
“It was a good at-bat,” he said. “I was just trying to get something out there.”
The Sox had chances thanks to the walks but were 0 for 6 with runners in scoring position, striking out four times.
“We got some big opportunities in the first, second, and sixth innings and the two-out base hit was elusive,” Sox manager John Farrell said.
Game 2 of the best-of-seven series is Sunday night with Clay Buchholz facing Scherzer.
“We’ll be ready to go,” Farrell said. “We have the ability to put tonight behind us.”
The Sox were the highest-scoring team in the majors this season and beat Detroit, 20-4, when the teams played for the final time in the regular season Sept. 4. But they looked helpless on Saturday, flailing away at pitches out of the strike zone and taking borderline pitches that were deemed strikes by umpire Joe West.
Sox starter Jon Lester took the loss despite allowing one run over 6⅓ innings. He gave up six hits, walked one, and struck out four.
It was the sixth time the Sox were shutout in a postseason game, and only the second time at home since 1918
Sanchez started his career with the Sox before being traded to the Marlins in 2005 in a package of prospects for Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell.
The righthander from Venezuela was pitching at Fenway Park for the first time in his eight-year career. He marked the occasion by tying a postseason record with four strikeouts in the first inning.
Sanchez struck out Jacoby Ellsbury then got Shane Victorino swinging at a slider. But the pitch was down and away and got past catcher Alex Avila. Victorino was safe on the wild pitch.
Victorino stole second before Pedroia walked. Sanchez then came back to strike out David Ortiz and Napoli swinging at full-count pitches.
Cubs righthander Orval Overall was the last pitcher to strike out four in an inning of a postseason game. He accomplished the feat in Game 5 of the 1908 World Series against the Tigers.
The Sox were intent on wearing down Sanchez. The first 11 hitters saw at least four pitches in their plate appearance. That streak ended when Pedroia lined out on a first-pitch fastball to center field in the third inning.
It was a trend that continued, as Sanchez never came close to giving up a hit.
“It was really crazy,” he said. “I just tried to keep the ball down in the strike zone. I don’t try to miss in the middle.”
Pedroia, Napoli, and Nava walked in the sixth. inning. But Stephen Drew struck out swinging with two outs.
Righthander Al Alburquerque started the seventh and retired the Sox in order. Jose Veras and Drew Smyly took care of the eighth.
Farrell started David Ross at catcher instead of Jarrod Saltalamacchia. With Ross behind the plate, Lester allowed two runs and struck out nine over seven innings against the Tigers at Fenway Sept. 3.
The combination worked well early as the lefthander kept the Tigers off the scoreboard and worked out of several jams. But Lester could not escape trouble in the sixth.
He walked Miguel Cabrera before hitting Prince Fielder with a two-seam fastball. Victor Martinez grounded to shortstop but the Sox could not turn a double play as Martinez just beat the throw.
That proved crucial when Jhonny Peralta lined a 2-and-2 curveball into center field for an RBI single.
Major League Baseball suspended Peralta for 50 games this season for his involvement in the Biogenesis performance-enhancing drugs scandal. He returned for the final three games of the regular season and drove in five runs against Oakland in the Division Series.
The Sox players credited Sanchez with pitching well and made temperate comments about what they thought was a liberal strike zone by West.
“We just didn’t get any hits. They made pitches when they needed to. That was it,” Pedroia said.Peter Abraham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @PeteAbe.