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BOSTON (CBS) – The Red Sox found themselves with four days off between the end of the regular season and Game 1 of the ALDS last Friday, and they managed it rather well by scoring 12 runs in the series-opening win.
Yet after earning a three-day rest prior to the ALCS, which began Saturday night at Fenway Park, things didn’t go quite as well when the Red Sox tried to get their bats going.
Anibal Sanchez was unhittable for the Tigers, pitching six innings of no-hit ball before his pitch count forced manager Jim Leyland to make a pitching change. But at that point, the bats had been silenced, frozen or any other term that could be used to mean futile, and the Red Sox couldn’t generate any offense in what would eventually be a 1-0 Tigers victory.
Things got interesting in the ninth, when Daniel Nava finally got the Red Sox’ first hit of the night and pinch runner Quintin Berry stole second with two outs. But rookie Xander Bogaerts couldn’t deliver a hit, as he popped out to shortstop to end the game.
The Key Moment
The game’s lone run came in the top of the sixth, but it never would have happened if not for Victor Martinez hustling down the first base line.
The Tigers’ DH stepped to the plate with two on and one out, and he hit a chopper to shortstop. Stephen Drew charged, fielded and pivoted before throwing to second base, and Dustin Pedroia fired a strike to first base despite Prince Fielder bearing down on him.
Jon Lester thought the inning was over, Pedroia thought the inning was over, and the capacity Fenway Park crowd thought the inning was over. Alas, it was not, as Martinez’s foot hit the base just before the ball hit Mike Napoli’s mitt, and the inning continued.
Jhonny Peralta made it count, delivering an RBI single to center field to give the Tigers the 1-0 lead.
The man was Anibal Sanchez, though it wasn’t the type of no-hit bid we’re used to seeing. He had nasty stuff – his slider and his changeup could not be touched – but he was also a bit wild. He walked six batters, which contributed to the pitch count getting out of control, but he also struck out 12 Red Sox.
That all began in the first, when he became the second pitcher to ever record four strikeouts in one postseason inning, and it just continued. No Red Sox batter even made solid enough contact to generate something that could be considered “almost a hit.”
Perhaps the best indication of Sanchez’s dominance came in that final inning, when Leyland had the option of pulling his starter with the bases loaded and two out. Sanchez’s pitch count was at 111, and he had already walked three batters in the inning, so removing the pitcher seemed like the obvious call for most watching.
But Leyland believed in Sanchez, and it paid off, as he got Drew to go down swinging.
Dominant stuff from Sanchez – plain and simple.
The bat boy? It’s hard to really pinpoint any one person or moment as the part where the game got away from the Red Sox. They just couldn’t hit. Even after Sanchez left the game, a quartet of relievers kept the Red Sox hitless through eight and one-thirds innings.
The Sox scored 24 runs in four games against the Rays, so all credit belongs to the Tigers for shutting them down all night long.
It won’t get any easier for the Red Sox’ offense, as they’ll be going up against Max Scherzer, who is going to be this year’s Cy Young Award winner. Boston will have a Cy Young-caliber righty of its own going in Clay Buchholz, but it’s going to be on the hitters to be at their best. As Game 1 showed, it doesn’t matter how well your starter pitches if you can’t muster any hits yourself.