BOSTON -- Here's the scary part:
This was the game where the Red Sox thought they had the pitching edge.
Instead, Detroit starter Anibal Sanchez (six innings) and relievers Al Alburquerque (one), Jose Veras (two-third of an inning), Drew Smyly (one-third) and Joaquin Benoit (one-third) held the Red Sox hitless through 8 1/3 innings Saturday night in Game 1 of the ALCS and had Detroit on the verge of the third postseason no-hitter in MLB history. Daniel Nava broke up the no-hit bid with a one-out single to left, but that was the beginning and end of the Red Sox offense as the Tigers recorded a 1-0 victory and took a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.
And now the Sox face the prospect of Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander pitching the next two games.
“We knew what we were in for," said Nava. "Of course, it doesn't get any easier."
Hard to believe anything could be as hard as it was for the Sox on Saturday night. They struck out 17 times, tying the MLB record for most strikeouts in a postseason game, and Nava's single was really the only chance they had at getting a hit as they were shut out at home in the postseason for the first time since the 1918 World Series.
"Whether it was Sanchez" -- who struck out 12, and tied a major-league record by striking out four batters in the first inning -- "or every guy they brought out of the bullpen, it was power stuff," said manager John Farrell. "To chase a very good starter after six innings, I thought we succeeded in that. We're down a run. That game is still very much in the balance every time we come to the plate . . . We achieved what we set out to do and that was to get in the bullpen in the middle innings.
"And, unfortunately, it didn't work out."
Which is not to say the Sox were without their chances. Sanchez also walked six and Shane Victorino had reached on a wild pitch after one of the 12 K's, giving Boston seven baserunners in the first six innings. Nothing came of it, however, and Sanchez completed his six-inning, 116-pitch effort with a bases-loaded strikeout of Stephen Drew in the sixth -- he'd walked three earlier in the inning -- and pumped his first, spun and screamed as he headed to the dugout.
"I tip my hat," said Victorino. "I give him credit. He kept us off-balance all night long.
Boston had one more chance in the ninth after Nava singled, as pinch-runner Quintin Berry got himself into scoring position by stealing second. But Benoit retired Drew on a fly ball and Xander Bogaerts on a pop up for the final two outs.
The near no-hitter nearly wasn't enough for Detroit. Red Sox starter Jon Lester walked a tightrope through the first five innings, stranding four runners, but he was able to keep pace with Sanchez and hold the game scoreless.
-- In the first inning, he retired Victor Martinez on a grounder to short with runners on first and second and two outs.
-- In the third, he induced an inning-ending double-play grounder from Torii Hunter.
-- In the fifth, he escaped unscathed from the Tigers' biggest threat to that point. Jhonny Peralta led off with a double, but was nailed at second on an alert throw by Mike Napoli after a grounder to first by Omar Infante. Infante, however, was able to get to third when Victorino booted Alex Avila's single to right, putting runners on first and third. But Will Middlebrooks throw out Infante at the plate on Jose Iglesias' grounder to third, and Austin Jackson flied to Victorino for the final out.
Lester's good fortune ran out in the sixth . . . and the wound was largely self-inflicted.
With one out, he walked Miguel Cabrera and then hit Prince Fielder with a pitch. The Sox barely missed turning an inning-ending double play, as Martinez beat Dustin Pedroia's throw after Fielder was forced at second on Martinez' grounder to short. And Peralta delivered the first run of the game with a single to center, putting the Tigers ahead, 1-0.
The Tigers missed golden opportunities to build on their lead in the eighth and ninth. In the eighth Detroit loaded the bases with two out against Craig Breslow, but Alex Avila flew out to end the inning. Then they put runners on second and third with one out in the ninth against Koji Uehara, yet left them there when Don Kelly -- a defensive replacement for Cabrera -- struck out and Drew robbed Fielder of a two-run single with a spectacular, over-the-shoulder catch of his looper into left field.
But their pitching staff ensured that it didn't matter.
The Sox' trademark this year, however, has been their resiliency, and Victorino vowed that would continue in the ALCS.
"We chalk this one up," he said, "and get ready to go tomorrow."