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ALCS Game 5: Jon Lester vs. Anibal Sanchez

Posted by David Sabino  October 17, 2013 02:17 PM

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Nava.jpg
Daniel Nava's ninth inning single broke up the Tigers combined no-hitter started by Anibal Sanchez in Game 1.

Here we go again. Four games in the ALCS are history and despite all of the great pitching, some incredible clutch hitting by the Red Sox and a sloppy Game 4, absolutely nothing has been decided. Entering Game 5, a rematch of the epic Game 1 matchup between Anibal Sanchez and Jon Lester, the teams are reduced to playing a best-of-three series with the Red Sox still holding home field advantage.

Pitching should once again be at the forefront during this go-around. Prognosticating the results of these nail-biters that can change on the slightest bobble ous on the pitching and how rare tonight's starters really are and how this series could be one for the record books. Sit back and soak it in.

  • Near no-hitters have been almost commonplace for Sanchez throughout his career. Since he came into the league he has pitched four one-hitters to go along with a no-hitter against the Diamondbacks in 2006. In addition, just like in Game 1 in Boston, he’s had one more outing in which he allowed just one hit, but over only seven innings against the Nationals a few weeks before his no-no in ‘06. The only other during Post World War I baseball history with as many low-hit complete games in his first 175 career starts was Bob Feller who also had four one-hitters and a no-hit game in 1938, ‘39 and ‘40.
  • Walks—and their accompanying high pitch count—ultimately cost Sanchez a chance to join Roy Halladay and Don Larsen in the record books as the only pitchers to throw no-hitters in the postseason. Sanchez became just the fifth pitcher in postseason history to pitch at least six innings in a start while walking six yet allowing no runs to score. The last to achieve that was Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez who issued six free passes to the Rangers over eight shutout innings in the 1999 ALDS. That was actually the second time it happened at Fenway Park with the Red Sox the recipients of six bases on balls. The first was by Mets starter Ron Darling in Game 4 of the 1986 World Series who pitched seven scoreless innings, allowing four hits and a half-dozen walks. Others on the list include Pittsburgh’s Bruce Kison against the Dodgers in Game 3 of the 1974 NLCS, Bill Hallihan of the 1931 Cardinals who walked seven in blanking Mickey Cochrane, Al Simmons and Jimmie Foxx and the Philadelphia A’s in Game 2 of the World Series. Honorable mention to Cubs starter Ed Reulbach who gave up an unearned run to the White Sox in a 7-1 complete game win in Game 2 of the 1906 Windy City Series.
  • Sanchez also became the fifth starter in postseason history to pitch at least two innings with no hits allowed yet get the hook before allowing a hit. Two are the aforementioned Larsen and Halladay who completed their no-hitters. The others were Baltimore’s Mike Cuellar who walked nine Oakland A’s in 4 ⅔ innings of a 2-1 loss in the 1974 ALCS, and Seattle’s Paul Abbott who saw eight Yankees reach via ball four in Game 4 of the 2001 ALCS. Both Cuellar and Abbott lost their games however.
  • In the other dugout, Jon Lester is exactly who the Red Sox want on the hill coming off of a tough result. This season he had a record of 9-1 following a Red Sox loss, rightfully earning him stopper status. He pitched three times with first place on the line and came out with wins in each. His performance in Game 1 was masterful as well, and his hard luck was unprecedented in franchise history. Red Sox starters who pitch at least six innings while allowing just one run (earned or unearned) are 33–1 with four no decisions in postseason play. Guess who that one loss is? In those games the team is 36–2, with the only other blemish coming in Game 1 of the 1990 ALCS when Roger Clemens departed after six scoreless innings, only to watch the A’s throttle the Sox bullpen for nine runs.
  • Among postseason pitchers with at least 10 appearances, eight starts and 50 innings pitched, Lester ranks seventh alltime with a 2.41 ERA. During the playoff era, starting in 1969 when the League Championship Series were introduced, only Curt Schilling (2.23) and Ken Holtzman (2.30) have been better in the playoffs than Lester.
  • f it seems like batters are striking out at an alarming rate, they are. These teams have combined to fan once every 3.54 plate appearances, which beats the old ALCS standard of one K every 4.39 PAs set by the Orioles and Indians in the 1997. The only playoff round to K's at a greater rate was the 2012 World Series when these Tigers and the Giants whiffed once every 3.49 trips to the plate.
  • The Red Sox have struck out 53 times already through four games. They are just 10 strikeouts off of the record for most times striking out in an LCS, set by the 2007 Indians. The postseason series record is 70 set by the 2001 Diamondbacks against the Yankees (who struck out 63 times the same series). With Boston having struck out at least 10 times in every game this series and five consecutive games overall, those records all seem almost a lock.

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Stats Driven is powered by David Sabino, who over the last two decades has been a source of statistical analysis on the pages of Sports Illustrated, New York Times, and Chicago Tribune. David has written about all seven recent Boston-area championships for Sports Illustrated Presents commemorative issues, was the creator of such long time features as SI’s Player Value Ranking, NBA Player Rating and long running fantasy football and baseball columns.

He has also authored or made contributions to many books, including the Sports Illustrated’s 100 Fenway: A Fascinating First Century.

Now living in Marblehead, he’s focusing his attention on the Boston sports scene, specifically delving into the numbers affecting the Red Sox, Patriots, Celtics and Bruins, with the goal of informing and entertaining real fans. You can follow him on Twitter at @SabinoSports.

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