Daniel Nava breaks up Tigers’ no-hit bid, but Tigers win to take 1-0 ALCS lead

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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.

Kershaw-Sale anything but a pitcher’s duel

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World Series Game 1 was billed as a battle of aces, the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw against Chris Sale of the Red Sox. Between them, they have 14 All-Star Game nominations. Kershaw has won three Cy Young Awards. Sale could his first Cy Young Award this year. Among his 10 seasons with at least 110 innings pitched, Kershaw has never posted a sub-2.92 ERA. Sale has been at 2.90 or below in each of the last two seasons. The two have combined for over 4,000 career strikeouts and both have averaged better than a strikeout per inning over their careers.

And yet Tuesday’s Game 1 was anything but a pitcher’s duel between Kershaw and Sale. Though a couple of fielding mistakes weren’t of any help to Kershaw in the first inning, Red Sox batters were squaring him up good. Of the five balls put in play in the first inning, three had exit velocities of 100 MPH or higher. Of the 12 total balls put in play against him overall, five reached triple digits in exit velo.

Kershaw gave up a pair of runs in the first, another run in the third on a J.D. Martinez double to straightaway center field, and another two in the fifth. Kershaw led off the fifth by walking Mookie Betts, then giving up a single to Andrew Benintendi, ending his night. Ryan Madson relieved Kershaw and proceeded to allow both inherited runners to score. All told, Kershaw yielded five runs on seven hits and three walks with five strikeouts on 79 pitches in four-plus innings.

Sale, meanwhile, was on the hook for individual runs in the second, third, and fifth. Dodger hitters weren’t squaring him up quite as well as the Red Sox batters squared up Kershaw, but Sale was still more hittable than usual. Of the eight balls put in play against him, four were at least 90 MPH in exit velo. One of the runs was a no-doubt solo home run to Matt Kemp in the second. The Dodgers chased Sale in the fifth when he issued a leadoff walk to Brian Dozier. Matt Barnes relieved him allowed the inherited runner to score. Overall, Sale threw 91 pitches in four-plus innings, serving up three runs on five hits and two walks with seven strikeouts.

The game is now, as has been generally the case throughout this postseason, a battle of the bullpens.