BOSTON – Torii Hunter has been insisting for anyone who will listen that pitching should dominate the postseason.
"Good pitching beats good hitting every day," says the Detroit Tigers veteran outfielder. "Except Miguel."
TIGERS: Pitchers rewrite record book
Even his accomplished teammate Miguel Cabrera, hobbled as he is, is having a difficult time being the exception to the cliché. Cabrera is batting a pedestrian .261 in this increasingly tight and offensively frugal October.
Hey, that's pretty good by current standards.
Anibal Sanchez's six hitless innings for Detroit on Saturday only added to the laundry list of offensive futility that summarizes this postseason.
The Tigers haven't allowed a hit in the first six innings of their past two games – something never done in consecutive postseason games. Before Anibal Sanchez's effort Saturday, Justin Verlander held Oakland hitless into the seventh inning of the decisive Game 5 of their Division Series.
Verlander, in fact, hasn't allowed a run in 15 innings this month.
St. Louis rookie Michael Wacha has given up just a run and six hits in 14 innings. His opponent in Saturday's 1-0 St. Louis victory, Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw, has surrendered one earned run in 19 innings.
"In the postseason, sometimes offense suffers because you're facing No. 1s and No. 2s," Hunter says of the pitching that's controlling these playoffs. The argument can be made that Sanchez is Detroit's No. 3 behind Max Scherzer and Verlander.
Saturday was the first time two 1-0 postseason games were played on the same day. The four teams combined for 17 hits, nine of them by Detroit.
There was another 1-0 game in the previous round, Oakland's Game 2 victory over Detroit. To find the previous three 1-0 games, you'd have to combine the past eight postseasons.
In the first 23 playoff games this year, five teams have been shut out and nine others held to one run. In fact, more than half the teams (27 of 46) have scored three runs or fewer.
In the first three games of the two League Championship Series, the overall batting average is .163. For the entire postseason, it's .229.
Detroit's near-miss of a no-hitter Saturday was the first 1-0 playoff game in the history of Fenway Park, the first time the Red Sox had been shut out at home in the postseason since the 1918 World Series.
"We've faced some good pitching," Hunter says. "I thought Oakland had some crazy pitching. The balls were moving all over the place. I felt like I was in a ring with Mike Tyson – the younger one, the one that was ludicrous."
Don't expect this trend to change anytime soon. Kershaw and Wacha headline the group of 25-and-under pitchers who have made 18 of the first 46 post-season starts this year.
The grind of pressure games and travel at the end of a six-month season might be more telling on the everyday players than starting pitchers who can focus on their every-fifth-day appearance.
"If you're not mentally exhausted leaving a playoff game, you didn't play, you know?" says Red Sox outfielder Jonny Gomes. "The atmosphere, the pressure is exposed that much more. The meetings, the reports … the scouting reports are just completely attacking your weakness or the other team's weakness and you have to make that adjustment on the fly."
Advance scouting is far more intense heading into the playoffs. Most teams have been closely following other playoff teams for the final month of the season.
"You've got to commend the scouts during this part of the year," Hunter says. "If you've got a cold zone low and in or up and away, they're going to stick with it."
And the pitchers executing what the scouting reports suggest are the ones most likely to be able to succeed.
"At this point in the playoffs," Gomes says, "I don't think you'll get any pitcher that's a slouch."
The only slouches these days are those sagging shoulders as batters trudge back to the dugout after another frustrating at-bat.
In 23 postseason games, there have been five shut outs and nine games where a team was held to one run. Over the past five seasons, strikeouts are rising while batting averages are sinking. League average in the postseason:
Ks per 9