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In a Game 1 like no other, Sanchez and Tigers nearly no-hit Boston

By Danny Knobler | Baseball Insider

BOSTON -- Al Kaline has been in baseball for 60 years. He played in nearly 3,000 games, and in the 39 years since he retired, he has watched thousands more.

Game 1 of the American League Championship Series had him shaking his head.

"I don't think I've ever seen a game like this," Kaline said.

He said it with a smile, because his Tigers ended up on top. He said it with amazement, because Saturday night's 1-0 Tiger win truly was a game like no other ever played.

It was nearly the third-ever post-season no-hitter, and the first-ever combined postseason no-hitter. The first four Tiger pitchers didn't allow a hit. The fifth, closer Joaquin Benoit, allowed only Daniel Nava's one-out single in the ninth.

Starter Anibal Sanchez pitched the first six innings, didn't allow a hit, walked six and struck out 12.

No pitcher in the history of baseball ever had a line like that. Not in the postseason, and not in the regular season either. Even if you take out the no-hit part, no pitcher in 15 years (since Randy Johnson in 1998) had a game with both six walks and 12 strikeouts.

The only other pitcher to do it in the postseason? Walter Johnson, in the 1924 World Series.

And it took him 12 innings.

So that was nothing like this. Baseball's two postseason no-hitters -- Don Larsen's perfect game in the 1956 World Series and Roy Halladay's no-hitter in the 2010 Division Series -- were nothing like this.

No game ever was like this.

"What a game," Miguel Cabrera said as he walked through the Tiger clubhouse. "What a game."

What a game, but not really the game you'd expect between the two teams that scored the most runs in baseball this year.

"Pitching and defense always wins games in the playoffs," Torii Hunter said. "Offense ain't nothing."

Fair enough, but there had never been a 1-0 postseason game in the history of Fenway Park. There had only been one previous postseason game in which the Red Sox were shut out at Fenway, and that was in 1918, when Babe Ruth was a Red Sox pitcher.

Yes, this was a game like no other.

"It was definitely one I don't think you'll see for a while," Tigers catcher Alex Avila said. "That many walks, that many strikeouts, the threat of a no-hitter, a 1-0 game. You realize afterwards, it was a special game."

It was no doubt more special for the Tigers, who scored the game's only run on Jhonny Peralta's sixth-inning single. They're the ones who now lead this ALCS, and they're the ones with Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander set to start the next two games.

Sanchez doesn't get near the attention that Scherzer and Verlander do, but he actually had a better ERA this year than either of them. He had a better ERA (2.57) than anyone in the American League this year.

He also had a 17-strikeout game, in April against the Braves.

Sanchez is the kind of power pitcher that Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski favors. Dombrowski believes that power pitching wins in October, and recent playoff series against the Yankees have seemed to prove his point.

In Game 2 of last year's ALCS, Sanchez shut out the Yankees for seven innings.

The Red Sox have had great success with their relentless lineup, but some scouts have pointed out that it's been weeks since they faced a hard-throwing right-handed starter. The Tigers will throw three of them in the first three games of this series.

Against Sanchez, the Red Sox strategy of working counts only got them strikeouts and more strikeouts, with a few walks mixed in for variety. The walks allowed them to have the semblance of rallies, but the strikeouts always ended them.

Sanchez's pitch count rose.

The hit count against him never changed.

And at the end of a game like no other, he and the Tigers were the winners.

 
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