Nava saves Red Sox from no-hitter

Nava saves Red Sox from no-hitter
October 13, 2013, 1:00 am
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BOSTON – It seems almost impossible to think that the Red Sox – with one of baseball’s most prolific offenses this season – would come within two outs of being no-hit in a postseason game. But a quintet of Tigers pitchers, led by former Red Sox minor leaguer Anibal Sanchez, nearly accomplished that feat in Game 1 of the ALCS at Fenway Park Saturday.
 
Instead, Daniel Nava’s clean single to center field with one out in the ninth inning averted that bit of ignominy for the Sox. And Chris Bosio’s no-hitter against the Sox on April 22, 1993, in Seattle remains as the last time they suffered that indignity.
 
Sanchez was followed by Al Albuquerque, Jose Veras, and Drew Smyly in keeping the Sox hitless through eight innings. It wasn’t until closer Joaquin Benoit entered with the Tigers leading 1-0 in the ninth inning that the Sox broke into the hit column.
 
With one out in the ninth, Nava, who was 0-for-2 with two strikeouts and a walk at that point in the game and 1-for-7 in the postseason, faced Benoit, against whom he was 0-for-3 with three strikeouts in his career.
 
With the count 1-and-2 Nava fouled off three straight pitches, before connecting on Benoit’s seventh offering, a 95-mph fastball.
 
“I wasn’t thinking anything about the no-hitter at that point,” Nava said. “It was still a 1-0 game and we’d been battling all game, and we hadn't had anything fall, obviously. Fortunately, I got that one to fall but to try to set things up, that was where a lot of the emotion came from.”
 
Sanchez, likewise, said he was not thinking about a no-hitter, either.
 
“At this point, especially in this series, it’s not about throwing  no-hitter,” he said. “As soon as you get some zeroes inning by inning and you face hitter by hitter, and get him thrown out, it’s more important. It’s more important than the no-hitter at this point.”
 
Quintin Berry, whom the Sox acquired for his speed in August just for these kinds of situations, replaced Nava at first base.  Tigers manager Jim Leyland, who had Berry in Detroit last season, said what makes Berry such a challenge is that everyone in the ballpark knows he’s going to steal and there’s nothing to prevent it.
 
“That’s why we sent [pitching coach Jeff Jones] out there,” Leyland said. “We sent Jonesy out to say, look, don’t get distracted, don’t let it get to you. Do the best you can to hold him but make sure you’re concentrating on the hitter. You don’t want to get crazy and worry so much about the runner, and somebody hits it out of the ball park. Jonesy just reminded him, look, it’s not the worst thing in the world if he ends up stealing a base. There was a shot maybe to pitch out. But when the count went 1-0, we couldn’t do that, we didn’t want to put Benoit in the situation where he pitched 2-0.”
 
With two outs, after Stephen Drew’s fly ball to deep right field, Berry stole second base. His aggressiveness on the base paths seemed to affect Benoit.
 
Berry lived up to Leyland’s earlier prophecy, stealing second base on a close play.  But that was as far as he would advance, as Xander Bogaerts popped out to end the game.
 
The Red Sox averted the no-hitter but couldn’t avoid the loss, falling 1-0 in the game and in the series to the Tigers.