ON THIS DATE (October 19, 2013) ... At some point during this surreal odyssey that wound up with the Red Sox getting to the World Series, their heroics went from the surprising to the expected. As in, even when doubts began to creep in elsewhere, the belief from field level never wavered.
So if Shane Victorino, who had spent the entire American League Championship Series in a slump, didn't seem to be the ideal man to be at the plate in a pivotal situation in Game 6, the Red
Sox were thrilled to have him there. And just like that, the slump ended with one magical swing -- a grand slam over the Green Monster with one out in the bottom of the seventh inning -- that led Boston to a 5-2 victory over the Tigers, not to mention an AL pennant.
In the end, it was the swing that swung the series. When Victorino strode to the plate against Jose Veras, the Sox were actually down a run and eight outs away from the possibility of
having to face Justin Verlander in Game 7. In a season full of thrills, this one was the biggest yet. Victorino was in a 2-for-23 slump before ripping his second career grand slam in postseason play, tying Jim
Thome for the all-time record.
To get to the World Series, the Sox had to outlast a tough Tigers team that gave them pretty much everything they could handle all series long. When Scherzer, the favorite for the AL Cy Young Award, took the mound for the bottom of the seventh, the Tigers still
had visions of that handoff to Verlander in Game 7.
But Boston would have none of that. The game-breaking, series-breaking rally in that seventh started when Jonny Gomes hit a double off the Monster that was maybe a foot from being a
home run. After Scherzer struck out Stephen Drew, Xander Bogaerts once again showed his poise by drawing a six-pitch walk, with
the final pitch missing the strike zone by inches, if at all. Lefty Drew Smyly came on to face Jacoby Ellsbury and did his job,
getting a ground ball. However, shortstop Jose Iglesias didn't do his, dropping the ball as he looked to flip it to second for the forceout. That error proved monumental, thanks to Victorino. Veras came on
and started Victorino with two strikes. But his 0-2 pitch was a hanging curveball and Victorino turned on it and got just enough of it to clear the 37-foot wall. That was the ultimate way to break out of a slump.
Clay Buchholz and Scherzer provided this series with yet
another compelling pitchers' duel early on. The Red Sox finally
broke through in the bottom of the fifth when Bogaerts hit a high
drive off the Monster in left-center for a two-out double. Ellsbury
followed with a line single to right, and Bogaerts scored easily from
second for the first run of the game. Then the Tigers rallied
as Buchholz opened the sixth by walking
Miguel Cabrera followed with a single to left. With 12
outs still remaining and a shutout in progress, Farrell went to his
bullpen in a move reminiscent of Game 5.
THE RED SOX WIN THE PENNANT
Franklin Morales came on and walked
Prince Fielder on four pitches to load the bases.
Victor Martinez followed and hit a two-run single high off the
Monster to give Detroit the lead at 2-1. That was all for
Morales, as Farrell called on righty
Brandon Workman. The rookie induced
Jhonny Peralta into a grounder to second, in which Pedroia
showed his savvy and skill in one rapid-fire play that, in hindsight,
helped save the game for the Red Sox. Pedroia swiftly tagged
Martinez and then fired home, where Fielder was caught in a rundown
between home and third base. Saltalamacchia chased Fielder all
the way back to the third-base bag and applied the tag as Fielder
tumbled. Workman continued his impressive performance by striking out
Alex Avila looking to end the inning.
Through the first four innings,
the only hit Scherzer allowed was Pedroia's single in the first.
Pedroia nearly brought the house down in the third when his drive to
deep left curled just foul, instead of being a three-run homer. He
wound up grounding into a double play to end the inning.
But the persistent Red Sox would finally do enough against the ace to knock him out, and then they delivered the knockout punch against Detroit's bullpen.