Sanchez pursued the third no-hitter in postseason history against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park, but because of his own inefficient effectiveness, he needed help to do it. The part that matters as this best-of-seven series moves forward: He helped the Tigers to a 1-0 victory in Game 1 with six powerful frames that brought all kinds of action, if no Boston hits.
“I wasn’t really worried about a no-hitter,” Detroit Manager Jim Leyland said. “Would’ve been nice, been several guys involved. But it works out fine for us.”
Such a blasé assessment of a historic pursuit somehow fit. As the late innings arrived, a two-fold tension built up in the Fenway stands. Would the Red Sox, who led all of baseball in almost every meaningful offensive category, get a hit? They didn’t in the seventh, nor in the eighth. And – oh, yeah – could they scratch out a run and tie this game?
Red Sox left fielder Daniel Nava answered the first question with one out in the ninth inning against Tigers closer Joaquin Benoit, Leyland’s fourth reliever. Nava fouled off three straight two-strike pitches, then rapped a clean single to center. But oddly, it didn’t even provide Boston’s best threat of the night. Not close.
Check out this line, because you may never see it again, be it April or October: six innings pitched, no hits, no runs, six walks, 12 strikeouts, two wild pitches. Mastery or mystery, it was what Detroit needed from Sanchez, a former Red Sox farmhand.
“At this point, especially in this series, it’s not about throwing a no-hitter or something,” Sanchez said. “As soon as you get some zeroes inning by inning, and you face hitter by hitter and get some outs, it’s more important. I think the win is more important than a no-hitter at this point.”
Jhonny Peralta had three hits, including the two-out single in the sixth that provided the Tigers the only run they’d need, and Detroit struck out 17 Boston batters. Sanchez had swing-and-miss stuff, but he wasn’t his sharpest – he threw one pitch to Red Sox shortstop Stephen Drew clear to the backstop – and labored at times. But the sometimes shaky Tigers bullpen backed him up with three scoreless innings, even if it couldn’t preserve the no-hitter.
“Whether it was Sanchez or every guy that they brought out of the bullpen, it was power stuff,” Boston Manager John Farrell said. “They executed very well.”