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.
Jane Lee of MLB.com reports that Athletics third baseman Matt Chapman has undergone his second surgery of the offseason. After feeling continued discomfort in his left shoulder, he had a distal clavicle resection on Friday, for which he’ll be sidelined at least six weeks before getting cleared to resume his preseason workout regimen.
The 25-year-old corner infielder closed out his sophomore season in the majors in 2018. He batted a terrific .278/.356/.508 with 24 home runs, an .864 OPS and 6.5 fWAR across 616 plate appearances, received his first career Gold Glove distinction and was a finalist for the American League MVP award as well. Despite recent complications, Chapman’s regular season performance wasn’t marred by injury — he sustained a right thumb contusion in June, but bounced back within three weeks and enjoyed a strong second half — and the A’s will undoubtedly look to him as one of their strongest performers in 2019.
Friday’s procedure was his second of the year, as he also underwent an ulnar sided sesamoid bone excision in his thumb back in October. Per Lee and MLB.com’s Manny Randhawa, Chapman is expected to make a complete recovery within a two-month window, after which point he’ll likely be in fine shape to contribute during spring training.