They say that great pitching beats great hitting, or in spring training they'll say that the pitchers are ahead of the hitters. With maybe the exception of Davis Ortiz' grand slam on Sunday, that seems to be the case in the playoffs as well.
In the Division Series, Clayton Kershaw had 12 strikeouts against the Braves. Justin Verlander had 11 in his first outing against Oakland. Michael Wacha of the Cardinals carried a no-hitter into the eighth against Pittsburgh, lost it on a home run by Pedro Alvarez, but still won the game 2-1. The Dodgers lost Game Two against the Cardinals 1-0, but only allowed 2 hits, and Hyun-Jin Ryu of didn't allow a hit until the fifth inning tonight, but at least L.A. got three runs and beat St. Louis 3-0. But nothing compares to the Detroit Tigers.
The Oakland Athletics couldn't beat Justin Verlander last year, and they still can't. After the 11 Ks in Game Two, Verlander took a perfect game into the sixth (Josh Reddick walked), and had a no-hitter with two outs in the seventh before Yoenis Cespedes singled. The Tigers won the game 3-0 and the series 3-2, but Detroit was just getting started.
Saturday night was almost the first combined no-hitter in post-season history. Anibal Sanchez went six innings, and even had four strikeouts in the first inning. Sanchez struck out 12, but walked 6. Al Alburquerque pitched a perfect seventh, Jose Veras got both batters he faced in the eighth, and Drew Smyly got the lefty, and the Red Sox had no hits through eight innings. Closer Joaquin Benoit, though, surrendered a one-out single to Daniel Nava in the ninth, and there would be no no-hitter. Unlike the next night, Benoit got the next two hitters and the Tigers won 1-0.
Sunday was Max Scherzer's turn (I wrote in an earlier column that Yu Darvish of Texas would win the AL Cy Young Award, but it clearly has to be Scherzer). He didn't allow a hit until Shane Victorino singled with two outs in the sixth. Scherzer had 13 strikeouts in 7 innings, but the Tigers lost after David Ortiz tied the game with a grand slam off Benoit in the eighth, and Jarrod Saltalamacchia singled off of Rick Porcello in the ninth.
Verlander is up Tuesday against the Red Sox. We'll see if Boston fares better than Oakland. The A's managed 6 hits (.118 average) and struck out 21 times in 15 innings against the big V. Another near no-hitter perhaps?
Cruel game: Detroit won game one against Boston, but didn't really deserve it. They lost game two but deserved to win. Scherzer's performance was much better than Sanchez'
Odd stat: I haven't heard the Ken Rosenthals or Tim Kurkjians of the world mention this, but maybe they have. The four runs that scored on Ortiz' slam were charged to four different pitchers. In the eighth inning, Will Middlebrooks doubled off of Jose Veras, Drew Smyly walked Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia singled off of Al Albuquerque, and Ortiz hit the home run off of Benoit.
Another stat: The Dodgers may be having trouble scoring runs, but not getting hits. They are 4-3 in their seven post-season games, including tonight, but have out-hit their opponent in all of them.
Zzzzz: I know commercial breaks are longer in the post-season, but there's no reason a 1-0 nine inning game should take four hours. The time of the near combined no-hitter when Detroit beat Boston Saturday was 3 hours, 56 minutes.
Cheaters never prosper?: What's the point in punishing players for steroid use if fans (and players) don't care? Jhonny Peralta got a loud ovation from the Detroit fans in the Oakland series, and stands to get a louder one tomorrow when the Tigers host Boston. Peralta, who just completed a 50-game suspension for performance enhancing drugs, is 4-for-8 so far in the ALCS.
Best Directing: In the top of the ninth Saturday, when Detroit's no-hitter was still intact, Fox kept showing shots of various Red Sox fans and the tension they were feeling. Some were looking between their hands, others had their fingers crossed, and others with nervous expressions, all without Joe Buck or Tim McCarver saying a work. Great theater.
Even though October is the greatest sports month of the year, this week is always a tough one for me. 32 years ago tonight, I lost my dad, and ten years ago last Wednesday, my Aunt Judy passed away. I miss them both so much.