Aníbal, Max repeat October feat 6 years later
Righties flirt with no-hitters in back-to-back postseason starts in 2013, '19
Aníbal Sánchez and Max Scherzer make a great postseason pair.
The two right-handers showed that in their days with the Tigers. And now, reunited with the Nationals, they are showing it again.
Entering this year’s National League Championship Series, Sánchez and Scherzer were the only pitchers in postseason history to hold the same team hitless through at least five innings in consecutive games, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. That was for Detroit in Games 1 and 2 of the 2013 American League Championship Series against Boston.
Six years later, they have repeated that spectacular feat.
In the Nationals’ Game 1 victory at St. Louis on Friday -- the first NLCS game in Nationals history -- Sánchez held the Cardinals hitless through 7 2/3 innings before pinch-hitter José Martínez smacked a single to center field that ended his night.
That was a lot for Scherzer to live up to, but the three-time Cy Young Award winner delivered. Scherzer carried a no-hitter through six innings on Saturday before Paul Goldschmidt led off the seventh with a line-drive single to left. But Scherzer erased him on Yadier Molina’s inning-ending double-play grounder before giving way to the bullpen.
Combine Sánchez and Scherzer’s outings, and they gave the Nationals 14 2/3 scoreless innings, allowing two hits, walking three and striking out 16. They also are now the only two pitchers in postseason history with multiple games of at least six innings and no more than one hit allowed in their careers.
"I know when Sanchie gets locked in, he's nasty," Scherzer said after Saturday's win. "He can just absolutely do anything with the baseball. He's such a treat to watch. The way he can change speeds and execute pitches, it's a treat to really watch and get to pitch with him. For me, I'm just in the moment. I'm not trying to do anything great, I'm just trying to stick within my game."
Sánchez and Scherzer first made history in 2013, Sánchez’s first full season in Detroit following a trade from Miami. The two were part of a stellar rotation that also included Justin Verlander, Doug Fister and Rick Porcello. It was a career year for Sánchez, who at age 29 went 14-8 with an AL-leading 2.57 ERA and finished fourth in AL Cy Young Award voting. Scherzer won it that year, authoring a breakout campaign in which the 28-year-old went 21-3 with a 2.90 ERA and 240 strikeouts.
Like this year’s Nationals, those Tigers trailed 2-1 in the Division Series -- in their case against Oakland -- before rallying to win in five games. Like the Nats, the Tigers then went on the road to start to the Championship Series. At Fenway Park, dueling Jon Lester, Sánchez went six no-hit innings and struck out 12, although his six walks and 116 pitches forced him out at that point. Boston didn’t record a hit until closer Joaquin Benoit allowed a single with one out in the ninth inning of a 1-0 Tigers victory.
In Game 2, Scherzer had a no-no going until Shane Victorino’s single with two outs in the sixth, and he left after seven innings with a 5-1 lead before a bullpen meltdown led to a Red Sox victory.
In a development that could foreshadow good things for Nationals Game 3 starter Stephen Strasburg, Verlander nearly gave the 2013 Tigers three straight five-inning no-hit bids. But with two outs in the fifth, Boston’s Jonny Gomes hit an infield single to break up that streak. Verlander ultimately gave up one run on four hits over eight innings in a tough-luck 1-0 loss against John Lackey.
Washington will hope for better results than those Tigers, who fell to the Red Sox in six games. The Nats, looking for the first World Series berth in franchise history, could hardly be off to a better start behind Sánchez and Scherzer.
Teammates once again, and both searching for their first ring, the two veterans have dug out a spot all to themselves in postseason lore.