The first playoff game in history between the Detroit Tigers and the Boston Red Sox on Saturday saw Detroit edge a 1-0 victory, and very nearly keep their opponents without a single hit.

Starter Anibal Sanchez and relievers Al Alburquerque, Jose Veras, Drew Smyly and Joaquin Benoit combined to keep the Red Sox hitless until Daniel Nava dumped a single to center off Benoit with one out in the bottom of the ninth.

Pinch-runner Quintin Berry stole second base after Stephen Drew had flied out to right field, but rookie Xander Bogaerts hit a towering pop-out to shortstop Jose Iglesias to end the opening game of the best-of-seven American League Championship Series.

The five Detroit pitchers bamboozled Boston batters in registering a total of 17 strikeouts at Boston's Fenway Park, as Detroit attempt to return to the World Series which they lost to the San Francisco Giants last year.

"It's unbelievable today with the pitchers," said Jhonny Peralta, the hitting star for Detroit.

Peralta, who rejoined the Tigers for the playoffs after serving a 50-game doping suspension, went 3-for-4 and drove in the game's only run in the sixth inning with a soft single to center off Boston starter Jon Lester that scored Miguel Cabrera.

Sanchez, the AL earned run leader at 2.57, set the tone from the start striking out four Red Sox hitters in the first inning, a feat enabled when a third strike got past catcher Alex Avila for a wild pitch that allowed Shane Victorino to reach first.

The Venezuelan stymied the Red Sox with a mesmerising assortment of pitches, all of which he moved around the strike zone at varying speeds.

The worst jam he faced was of his own doing, as he walked three batters in Boston's half of the sixth before striking out Drew to escape damage.

Sanchez struck out 12 and walked six and left the game after six innings and 116 pitches, only 66 of which were strikes.

The procession of relievers held Boston at bay, though Tigers manager Jim Leyland could not relax as Detroit failed to cash in on their baserunners, stranding 12 in the game.

"A one-run lead and you almost feel like you're behind in this ballpark," the Leyland said with a nod to the short distance to the tall, left-field wall known as the Green Monster.

"I mean a walk and a home run over the Monster... you never feel comfortable."

Game two is on Sunday. The winners of the series going through to the World Series against either the St Louis Cardinals or Los Angeles Dodgers.

Source: Agencies