Tigers closer Joaquin Benoit took the hill at Fenway Park in the ninth inning tonight asked not only to successfully wrap up Game 1 of the ALCS by the narrowest of margins (1-0), but to wrap up what could have been baseball’s first post-season combined no-hitter. Anibal Sanchez, Al Alburquerque, Jose Veras, and Drew Smyly had combined to throw eight no-hit innings against the Red Sox, giving way to Benoit in the ninth.
Benoit quickly struck out Mike Napoli to lead off the inning, looking as if he would be able to skate through the inning en route to history. But Daniel Nava fought Benoit, fouling off four pitches before hitting a soft liner to center, well in front of center fielder Austin Jackson for the first hit.
With the no-hitter out of mind, Benoit’s focus was solely on wrapping up the game. He fell behind Stephen Drew 2-0, but got him to fly out to deep right field for the second out. Quintin Berry, who came in to pinch-run for Nava, successfully stole second base, but it didn’t matter. Xander Bogaerts popped up to end the game.
The Tigers take a 1-0 series lead in the ALCS. The Red Sox will look to even the series in Game 2 behind starter Clay Buchholz, who will oppose Max Scherzer.
The Orioles singlehandedly kept the rumor mill churning this weekend. MLB Network’s Jon Morosi reports that the club is interested in making a play for free agent right-hander Lance Lynn, adding him to a list of potential candidates that also includes free agent righty Alex Cobb. The two are expected to command similar contracts in free agency, but Morosi notes that the Orioles may prefer Cobb based on his familiarity with the AL East.
Lynn, 30, is two years removed from Tommy John surgery on his right elbow. Despite missing the 2016 season, he bounced back with a respectable 11-8 record in 33 starts and complemented his efforts with a 3.43 ERA, 3.8 BB/9 and 7.4 SO/9 over 186 1/3 innings for the 2017 Cardinals. He lost several days with a blister on his pitching hand in early September, but managed to avoid any major injuries and can reasonably be expected to shoulder another heavy workload in 2018.
Lynn may not be the Orioles’ first choice to beef up their starting rotation, but there’s no doubt that he’ll be in high demand as one of very few viable starters on the market this winter. The veteran righty rejected his one-year, $17.4 million qualifying offer from the Cardinals on Thursday and will likely be seeking a multi-year contract, one that Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch estimates around five years and $100+ million. If the Orioles are willing to bite that bullet, they’ll still need to compensate the Cardinals with their third pick in next year’s draft.