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.
Nationals starter Max Scherzer bunted a ball into his face during batting practice on Tuesday, breaking his nose in the process. He ended up with a gnarly looking shiner around his right eye, making him appear a bit like Terminator. Scherzer still took the ball to start the second game of Wednesday night’s doubleheader against the Phillies.
Despite the injury, Scherzer was incredibly effective, limiting the Phillies to four hits and two walks across seven shutout innings, striking out 10 batters in the process. He might even have had some extra adrenaline going, as he averaged 96.2 MPH on his fastball, his highest average fastball velocity in a game since September 2012, per MLB.com’s Jamal Collier. The Nationals provided Scherzer with just one run of support, coming on a Brian Dozier solo home run off of Jake Arrieta in the second inning, but it was enough.
Wander Suero worked a scoreless top of the eighth with a pair of strikeouts. Victor Robles added a solo homer off of Pat Neshek in the bottom half. Closer Sean Doolittle took over in the ninth, working a 1-2-3 frame to give the Nats their 2-0 victory.
Over his last six starts, Scherzer now has a 0.88 ERA with a 59/8 K/BB ratio across 41 innings. He has gone six innings, struck out at least nine batters, and held the opposition to two or fewer runs in each of those six starts.