BOSTON — The Red Sox looked frustrated during Game 1 of the ALCS, and understandably so. Strikeouts were piling up, and hits were nonexistent for Boston until the ninth inning. One man who became a target of the Red Sox’ frustration was home plate umpire Joe West.
Multiple Red Sox players had discussions with West throughout the course of Saturday’s game, including Shane Victorino, Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz, Jacoby Ellsbury and Daniel Nava. Manager John Farrell even went out for a chat with West following the bottom of the seventh inning. But as disgruntled as the Red Sox seemingly were during the heat of battle, they were unwilling to point fingers after a disappointing offensive showing left them with a 1-0 Game 1 loss and a 1-0 series deficit.
“I can’t say there was an issue of the umpiring,” Farrell said after the game. “That would be taking away from the talent that their pitching staff had. They had good stuff. Whether it was a three-day layoff for us, I don’t want to say it was just that. They’re a talented group. And like I said, they had power stuff and they executed very well. But there might have been a couple of pitches that were pitchers’ pitches that seemed to go against us.
“But to say that the umpiring was the reason why we didn’t get a hit until the ninth inning,” Farrell continued, “that would be a little short-sighted on my part.”
Anibal Sanchez and four Tigers relievers combined to blank the Red Sox on Saturday. Boston had a few scoring chances by way of six walks, but the Sox didn’t produce a hit until the ninth inning and were unable to scratch across any runs. Jhonny Peralta’s two-out RBI single in the sixth inning held up as the difference in the ballgame.
Sanchez, who tossed six no-hit innings, struck out 12 Boston hitters before handing the ball over to the Tigers’ bullpen. Al Alburquerque, Jose Veras, Drew Smyly and Joaquin Benoit then finished the job from there.
The Red Sox can’t stew on Saturday’s loss too long. They’ll be going up against 21-game winner Max Scherzer on Sunday while trying to avoid a 2-0 series hole.
Before shifting our attention to Sunday’s Game 2, let’s tie up some loose ends from Game 1.
One topic that Ross really didn’t see as an issue was the umpiring.
“There’s a guy, the AL ERA leader on the mound. If I’m worried about the umpire too, I’m in trouble,” Ross said. “We had the same zone that they had. Don’t make a story out of that. It’s not worth it.”
“It’s just part of the game,” Victorino said. “In the heat of the moment, you’re going to think differently until you can go back and look at it. Both sides were in discussion. It’s part of the game. You’re all heated.”
Overall, Lester didn’t have an issue with West’s strike zone when he was on the mound.
“I can’t really comment for our hitters on that, but for me, I felt like there was maybe one or two [that were missed],” Lester said. “It was just kind of your typical night. You’re going to have a few here and there that you throw pretty well that are just off or just down or whatever.”
“From our vantage point, you can’t tell,” Farrell said. “You can tell up and down, but I don’t know if every pitch — I can’t say there’s not going to be pitches missed, that’s the human part of this game. So I can’t say that was the reason.”
Sanchez became only the second pitcher in postseason history to strike out four hitters in a single inning. The other hurler was Orval Overall in the 1908 World Series. Obviously.
Sanchez struck out Jacoby Ellsbury, David Ortiz, Mike Napoli and Victorino in the fourth inning. Overall struck out Charley O’Leary, Ty Cobb, Claude Rossman and Germany Schaefer.
Don Larsen and Roy Halladay threw complete, nine-inning no-hitters, and Pedro Martinez threw six no-hit innings in relief during Game 5 of the 1999 ALDS.
The Cardinals struck out 17 Tigers in Game 1 of the 1968 World Series, and the Padres struck out 17 Astros in Game 1 of the 1998 NLDS.
Leyland could have turned to lefty Drew Smyly, who was ready in the bullpen, in that situation. That likely would have caused Farrell to bring up either Xander Bogaerts or Jonny Gomes.
Smyly eventually entered the game in the eighth inning and retired David Ortiz on a flyout to center field, so Leyland’s decision to stick with Sanchez in the sixth inning was doubly important for the Tigers.
Cabrera is not only a below-average defensive third baseman, but he’s also banged up.
“I think that biggest key in that situation was the two guys that they had coming up to lead off that [eighth] inning were Victorino and Pedroia,” Leyland said. “Both are excellent baseball players, both smart. Victorino could have dropped the bunt down on Miggy. Pedroia could have dropped a bunt on Miggy. We felt like that was the best way to go.”
Let that sentence sink in for a minute. Crazy, right?
Napoli is not only 2-for-16 in the playoffs, but he’s also 1-for-13 in his career against Scherzer. Mike Carp will likely get the start at first base.
We might also see Gomes despite Scherzer being a right-hander. The Tigers don’t have any left-handers in their rotation, so if Gomes is going to start a game, Sunday’s contest might make sense. Nava is 1-for-9 in his career against Scherzer.
And there’s a chance we could see Bogaerts over Will Middlebrooks at third base. Middlebrooks is just 3-for-15 this postseason, and is 1-for-6 with four strikeouts in his career against Scherzer.
In other words, keep your head up, Boston.