They say legends are born in October.
One was born Saturday night as Tigers pitcher Anibal Sanchez threw six innings of no-hit baseball and tallied 12 strikeouts.
But he wasn’t the only legend that was born. After he left the game in the sixth due to a high pitch count, the Tigers bullpen, who had been in question all year, took the team no-hitter into the ninth inning.
In the 1-0 Game 1 victory, Tigers pitchers held the Red Sox, the league’s best scoring offense, to one hit and no runs, racking up 17 strikeouts. On the road.
This performance was the epitome of October baseball, as they not only proved themselves as a pitching staff, but also put the team in good shape moving forward with the series.
Game 2 is Sunday night at Fenway Park at 8 p.m., and the Tigers are in prime position to take command of the series before it shifts to Detroit for three games.
While the bats have admittedly been a little dormant this October, it is clear the pitching staff is in good shape.
Sunday night’s game pits Max Scherzer against Clay Buccholz in another pitcher’s battle. Buccholz was 12-1 in the regular season with a 1.74 ERA and an opponent batting average of .199.
But in his lone postseason appearance, he gave up three earned runs, seven hits and a home run against the Rays in Boston’s only loss of the series. But that’s not to say Buccholz isn’t dangerous.
On the other side, Scherzer has been somewhat of a legend himself for the Tigers this October. In Game 1 of the ALDS against Oakland he went seven innings with two earned runs and 11 strikeouts.
He made a relief appearance in Game 4 to keep the season alive, pitching two innings and getting out of a jam in the eighth inning with two dramatic strikeouts.
The point is, these two guys will provide another pitching battle Sunday night in a key game in the series. The Tigers will hold home field advantage either way, but the Tigers can turn Boston’s backs to the walls and put a firm grip on the series.
At the plate, the Red Sox were the league’s highest scoring team this year, while the Tigers weren’t too far behind them in second place.
Detroit, however, has struggled a little bit this postseason, only scoring 18 runs opposed to Boston’s 27.
Leadoff hitter Austin Jackson is just 3-for-25 with 15 strikeouts this postseason, while the 7, 8 and 9 hitters (Infante, Avila and Iglesias) are just 9-for-57 with two RBI .
That is why pitching is so key for the Tigers moving forward in this series.
MVP candidate Miguel Cabrera has been a little off this postseason as he’s battling a few injuries. But he’s still managed to go 6-for-23 with three RBI and a home run.
The real story at the plate for Detroit however, has been the resurgence of Jhonny Peralta. Coming back from his 50-game suspension, Peralta has gone 8-for-16 with a home run and six RBI so far this postseason.
Splitting time between shortstop and left field, he has been the heart of Detroit’s offense, including the lone RBI of Saturday’s victory.
Moving forward, they’ll look to him for more production in the middle of the lineup.
When the first pitch is thrown from a chilly Fenway park, the focus will be on the center of the field with Scherzer and Buccholz.
A lot of weight is also on Jim Leyland and John Farrell. Will the first-year Boston manager have enough to outwit Leyland, who has a ton of October experience?
Will Cabrera and Fielder finally get going? Will Peralta continue his hot streak? While the bottom of the lineup finally turn it around? Will the run-scoring machine of Boston be back?
A lot of these questions are long-term questions, but Sunday night we will begin to get a few answers.
October is in full swing, and Sunday night will be an absolutely crucial game as the series moves forward.