Oct 12, 2013; Boston, MA, USA; Detroit Tigers pitcher Anibal Sanchez (19) delivers a pitch during the fourth inning in game one of the American League Championship Series baseball game against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports
The Tigers seem to be producing “Instant Classics” faster than the US government is printing money.
The high-wire act otherwise known as the Detroit Tigers took its traveling show on the road to Boston Saturday night. Starter Anibal Sanchez was dominant and teamed with four relievers to carry a no-hitter into the ninth inning, while striking out seventeen (not a typo) Red Sox in the process.
The punch-out party began early for Tiger hurlers, as Sanchez improbably whiffed four hitters in the first inning. Dustin Pedroia had reached first base after striking out on a wild pitch.
This postseason one inning strikeout feat matched one performed in 1908 by a Chicago Cub, the improbably named Orval Overall. Lost to history, one can only speculate about his wardrobe.
The game evolved into a scoreless pitching duel between Sanchez and Jon Lester, Boston’s quality lefthander. The Tigers finally broke through in the sixth when the resurrected Jhonny Peralta dropped a two out single in front of center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury to score Miguel Cabrera.
Sanchez walked the bases loaded in the sixth as the Fenway faithful clamored for a breakthrough. It was not to be. Sanchez struck out his twelfth and final hitter, Stephen Drew, and fist-pumped his way back to the Tiger dugout.
He threw 116 pitches on the night,walked six, and did not yield a hit. It was a stunning performance against a formidable opponent loaded with offensive weapons.
The Tiger bullpen took over and locked down the game in impressive fashion. Al Alburquerque, Jose Veras and Drew Smyly cleaned up the seventh and eighth innings in order, leaving the no-hitter intact, and set the stage for a dramatic ninth.
Closer Joaquin Benoit fanned Mike Napoli to lead off the ninth, Boston’s seventeenth strikeout. Daniel Nava then flared a soft line drive to center field for a clean single, breaking up the no-hitter.
Fleet Ex-Tiger Quintin Berry pinch ran for Nava but was stalled at first as Benoit retired Drew on a fly to right for the second out. Boston manager John Farrell then sent rookie phenom Xander Bogaerts to the plate to pinch hit.
Berry quickly stole second base, further arousing the nervous Boston crowd. With the tying run in scoring position, Benoit got Bogaerts to sky an infield pop-up toward shortstop.
On a night when numerous MLB records were either tied or set, to Tiger fans this may have been the highest infield fly in history. It seemed to stay in space longer than some of our early space missions.
When it finally settled in the glove of Jose Iglesias, Tiger fans exploded in joy and their team had secured an intensely fought 1-0 road victory to seize a one up advantage on the Red Sox in the ALCS.