Tigers, Cards ride brilliant pitching to playoff wins

BOSTON —Anibal Sanchez, along with four Detroit relievers, came within two outs of notching the first combined no-hitter in postseason history.

They’d have to settle for a one-hit shutout and a 1-0 lead over the Boston Red Sox in the American League Championship Series.

Jhonny Peralta plated the game’s only run in the sixth, while Sanchez, Al Alburquerque, Jose Veras, Drew Smyly and Joaquin Benoit racked up a franchise- record 17 strikeouts en route to Saturday’s 1-0 victory in Game 1 from Fenway Park.

Sanchez (1-0) struck out 12 over six hitless frames, but issued a season-high six walks and was lifted to start the seventh after throwing 116 pitches.

The trio of Alburquerque, Veras and Smyly kept the no-hitter intact over the next two frames before Benoit took over to start the ninth.

The hard-throwing right-hander struck out Mike Napoli to open the final frame, but Daniel Nava punched a single into shallow center field, giving Boston its first hit of the night.

Benoit quickly bounced back, getting Stephen Drew to fly out sharply to right- center field before inducing an infield popout from Xander Bogaerts to secure the save, and more importantly the victory, for the Tigers.

Jon Lester (0-1) was a hard-luck loser, giving up just one run on six hits and a walk over 6 1/3 frames for the Red Sox, who will look to even the series Sunday when they send Clay Buchholz to the mound to face Tigers’ 21-game winner Max Scherzer in Game 2.

Sanchez’s propensity for the strikeout was evident from the start, as the Detroit right-hander fanned four Red Sox in the first frame before working around a pair of walks in the second.

Lester, meanwhile, wiggled out of trouble in the first and then again in the fifth, as Jose Iglesias ripped a sharp grounder to third with runners on the corners that Will Middlebrooks corralled before firing to the plate to nab Omar Infante and keep the game scoreless.

The Boston southpaw found himself in another jam in the sixth, when Miguel Cabrera worked a one-out walk and Prince Fielder was hit by a pitch before Victor Martinez slapped a chopper to shortstop.

Stephen Drew smothered the grounder and tossed to second to start a potential inning-ending double play, but Martinez just beat Dustin Pedroia’s relay throw from second to leave runners on the corners.

Peralta then provided his pitcher with all the support he would need, lacing a 2-2 curveball into shallow center field to score Cabrera for the game’s only run.

Cardinals 1, Dodgers 0

Rookie Michael Wacha outdueled former Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw with another stellar postseason performance, and the St. Louis Cardinals took a commanding lead in the National League Championship Series with a 1-0 Game 2 edging of the Los Angeles Dodgers at Busch Stadium.

Five days after taking a no-hitter into the eighth inning to keep the Cardinals alive in Game 4 of the NLDS, Wacha (1-0) limited a slightly depleted Dodgers lineup to five hits while striking out eight over 6 2/3 frames in his second career playoff outing.

Four St. Louis relievers preserved the shutout, with Trevor Rosenthal striking out the side in the ninth to nail down St. Louis’ second narrow victory over Los Angeles in as many days.

The Dodgers, playing without a pair of banged-up regulars in shortstop Hanley Ramirez and center fielder Andre Ethier, didn’t muster a hit against the Cardinals’ bullpen and have failed to score in 19 consecutive innings. They’ll next have to deal with St. Louis ace Adam Wainwright when the series shifts to Los Angeles for Monday’s Game 3.

“We’re in a hole now but we’re not out of it yet,” said Kershaw. “We’ve got three games at home to get right back in this thing and that’s the plan.”

Ramirez, who was hit in the ribs by a pitch during Friday’s 3-2, 13-inning setback in Game 1, was scratched from the lineup. Ethier is still bothered by an ankle sprain that has sidelined him for most of the past month.

Kershaw (0-1) was every bit as good as Wacha, but a passed ball by catcher A.J. Ellis in the fifth inning led to an unearned run that proved to be the difference. The All-Star southpaw permitted only two hits and a walk while fanning five before being lifted for a pinch-hitter in the top of the seventh.

“It hurts to be down 0-2 after the way [Kershaw and Game 1 starter Zack Greinke] threw the ball,” said Ellis. “It was a couple of tough ballgames. Now we will see what we are made of.”

The second straight one-run decision in this series didn’t quite deliver the drama of Friday’s marathon, though the anticipated pitcher’s battle between Kershaw and Wacha certainly lived up to its advanced billing. Both hurlers held the opposition scoreless until St. Louis broke through with what turned out to be the game’s only run in the bottom of the fifth inning.

David Freese laced a leadoff double into the left-field corner and was soon standing on third after Ellis failed to handle a Kershaw breaking pitch for a passed ball. Jon Jay then lifted a fly ball to medium-range left in which Carl Crawford’s throw home was off the mark to stake the Cardinals to a 1-0 lead.