Of all the numbers that will remain attached to Game 1 of the ALCS, perhaps the one the Red Sox will remember most is this: .034. With a date out there to return to the World Series, they hit a combined .034 (1-for-29) against five Detroit pitchers in their 1-0 loss at Fenway.
The Sox were home for the holiday, but their hitting game was on vacation.
“Hey, you tip your hat and give credit where it’s due,’’ said Sox right fielder Shane Victorino, one of the 11 Boston hitters not named Daniel Nava to come up emptier than a politician’s promise against Tiger pitchers. “They allowed us to get only one hit. So . . . you chalk it up and get ready for [Game 2 on Sunday].
Boston’s only hit, after being stifled by Tigers starter Anibal Sanchez (6 innings, no hits, 6 walks, 12 strikeouts on 116 pitches) was delivered by Nava with out in the ninth. Closer Joaquin Benoit tried to sneak a 1-and- pitch by the Sox left fielder and he slapped a looping single to center to bring to an end Detroit’s bid for a history-making group no-no.
Quinitin Berry subbed in to run for Nava, soon stole second base, but died there when Stephen Drew flied deep to right and Xander Bogaerts popped to short. Game over. And the Sox, who tore through the Tampa Bay Rays in the ALDS, scoring 19 runs in the first two games at Fenway, were sent home holding a 1-0 series deficit and the need to win Sunday or head to Detroit in a 2-0 series hole.
“They did a good job,’’ said Sox catcher David Ross, whose batterymate, Jon Lester, also was very sharp, not allowing the Tigers their lone run until the sixth inning. “Look, there’s a reason why they’re here. We expect their best. We think they are the other best team in the American League.’’
As the game played out, noted Ross, ‘’You’re waiting for one to fall in.’’
But the waiting only led to more waiting and more striking out over the course of nine innings and 3 hours, 56 minutes.
Ideally, said Ross, the Sox would have kept grinding at the plate, and had Tigers manager Jim Leyland knocking early on his bullpen’s door.
“You know, you think the weak spot on their team is maybe the bullpen,’’ said Ross, who went 0 for 1 on the night with a walk and a pop to second base. “Well, they did a damn good job tonight.’’
Victorino, versatile when it comes to getting on base, to the point he’s willing to get hit by a pitch (twice in Game 4 vs. Tampa), reached base only once, when he struck out in the first and legged it out to first on a wild pitch. Otherwise, his line was typical for the night: another pair of strikeouts and a groundout.
For the evening, the only Boston batters to reach the outfield with the ball were Will Middlebrooks (fly to left in the second), Dustin Pedroia (fly to center in the third), David Ortiz (fly to center in the eighth), and Drew’s fly to right in the ninth.
“He mixed it up well, kept us off balance,’’ Victorino said of Sanchez, now 1-1 in the postseason this year. “That’s what a good pitcher’s able to do.
‘’He was very effective. He got us on a lot of strikeouts and that’s not something we are accustomed to doing. But trust me, we’ll come back hungry [Sunday]. We’ve had our guys throw some strong games, and it’s not a great feeling to be on the other end of that. But, hey, it’s a seven-game series and we’re down, 1-0, and we’ll go from there.’’