BOSTON - Anibal Sanchez and four Detroit Tigers relievers came within two outs of the first combined no-hitter in postseason history, striking out 17 to beat the Boston Red Sox 1-0 Saturday night in the AL championship series opener.
Boston was hitless until Daniel Nava had a soft, clean single to center field off Joaquin Benoit with one out in the ninth.
Stephen Drew followed Nava and flied out to right and, with the potential tying run on second, Xander Bogaerts hit a game-ending popout to shortstop just after midnight.
Sanchez, the AL's regular-season ERA leader, was pulled after six innings and 116 pitches. Al Alburquerque, Jose Veras, Drew Smyly and Benoit stretched the no-hitter into the ninth before Nava ended their bid for the third postseason no-hitter ever.
Jhonny Peralta had an RBI single off Jon Lester in the sixth for the game's only run. It was a day for pitching in the playoffs - St. Louis beat the Dodgers 1-0 in the NLCS.
Sanchez walked a season-high six and struck out 12. Alburquerque got three outs, Veras got two and Smyly retired David Ortiz on a harmless fly ball to center before Benoit pitched the ninth for the save.
Red Sox shortstop Stephen Drew had kept the score close, racing into shallow center field to make a juggling, over-the-shoulder catch on Prince Fielder's looper to end the eighth with runners on second and third.
Clay Buchholz will face major league wins leader Max Scherzer in Game 2 on Sunday night.