No regrets from Tigers starter Anibal Sanchez: ‘It’s not about throwing a no-hitter’
|10.13.13 at 2:30 am ET|
Six innings and 116 pitches into his night at Fenway Park, even Anibal Sanchez had to admit: He did what he set out to do.
Yes, the right-hander had held the Red Sox hitless through that point, and yes, he had struck out 12 Boston batters in the process, but given his high pitch count — boosted by six walks — and Detroit’s well-rested bullpen, there were bigger rewards at stake than individual glory.
“[Tigers manager Jim Leyland] told me that my job is done. I said, ‘Yeah,’” Sanchez said. “Because I have got a lot of pitches. So I didn’t want to rush back just because we had a no-hitter. I think they needed to bring some fresh arms to get some innings quickly, and get the team — get the win, which is what we did today.”
Indeed, four Tiger relievers combined to pitch the final three innings, preserving the 1-0 lead Sanchez departed with and getting Detroit the win in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series. The Red Sox remained without a hit until there was one out in the bottom of the ninth when Daniel Nava lined a single to center off of right-handed closer Joaquin Benoit.
It was a big bounce-back game for Sanchez, who was lit up to the tune of six runs in 4 1/3 innings by the Athletics in the Division Series last Monday.
Sanchez’ outing was a bit touch-and-go, however. After tossing 51 pitches in just two innings, he settled in for three perfect frames to seemingly get his pitch count at a reasonable 88 through five. The sixth featured Dustin Pedroia, Mike Napoli and Nava working walks to load the bases with two outs and Stephen Drew due up.
That gave Leyland his first big personnel decision of the night. On one hand, he had relievers warmed up in the bullpen and Sanchez was already well over the 100-pitch mark. On the other, Drew was a career .250 hitter off Sanchez, whose fastballs were still touching 96 mph that inning.
“His stuff was still good when we faced Drew,” Leyland said. “So we weren’t worried so much about his stuff. All of a sudden he got out of sync with his control.”
Sanchez stayed in the game, and it paid off big time: Drew struck out swinging at an 89 mph slider low in the zone.
He skipped off the mound with an emphatic fist pump.
“You try to get ahead, and I just try to relax and make a good pitch for the out,” Sanchez said. “I just threw the pitch for a strike.”
His night was over, but the no-hit bid was not.
Righty Al Alburquerque, who told reporters afterward he was unaware of the no-no in progress, pitched a perfect seventh. Right-hander Jose Veras struck out the only two hitters he faced in the eighth, and southpaw Drew Smyly induced a fly out off the bat of David Ortiz in his one at-bat appearance.
“Whether it was Sanchez or every guy they brought out of the bullpen, it was power stuff,” said Sox manager John Farrell, whose team employed its strategy — working counts and getting starting pitchers out relatively early — to a tee but failed to see results. “They executed well. But there might have been a couple of pitches that were pitchers’ pitches that seemed to go against us.”
Benoit allowed Nava’s single in the ninth but retired Drew and Xander Bogaerts in order to end it. Bogaerts worked the count full, then popped up to shortstop Jose Iglesias. The Red Sox left eight men on base and finished 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position.
Had Detroit closed out the no-hitter, it would have been the first in ALCS history. But as Sanchez pointed out, the Tigers are more than happy with the one-hitter, seeing as it comes along with a 1-0 series lead.
“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,” Sanchez said. “At this point, especially in this series, it’s not about throwing a no-hitter.”
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