Ortiz grand slam highlights epic Red Sox comeback vs. Tigers
Boston Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz hits a grand slam against the Detroit Tigers during Game 2 of the American League Championship Series at Fenway Park in Boston, Oct. 13, 2013. (ROBERT DEUTSCH/USA Today)
For 16 innings to start this American League Championship Series, the Boston Red Sox were helpless in the face of the might of the Detroit Tigers pitching staff.
Through a 1-0 defeat Saturday that saw them hitless into the ninth inning and again through seven two-hit innings Sunday against Cy Young Award favourite Max Scherzer, the Red Sox were 3-for-51 at the plate with 30 strikeouts.
But all it took was one big inning – one big swing, really – to get Major League Baseball’s most potent offence back in gear and the Red Sox back in the series.
In typical dramatic fashion, David Ortiz was the man of the moment Sunday as the Red Sox rallied from a 5-1 deficit in the eighth inning. After his teammates had loaded the bases against relievers Jose Veras and Drew Smyly, Ortiz stepped in against Detroit closer Joaquin Benoit and hit the first pitch he saw on a line into the Red Sox bullpen to tie the game at 5-5.
Then, with the Tigers still reeling from that turn of events, with nobody out in the ninth inning, catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia leaked a single into left field to score Jonny Gomes from third base to give the Sox a 6-5 victory that will most surely find its way into Red Sox lore for generations to come.
“You can’t go to the plate trying to hit everything,” said Ortiz. “The post-season can go both ways. It can go well, if you stay calm. It can go bad if you try to do too much. If I was to tell you I was trying to hit a grand slam, I’d be lying. I just tried to be calm and looked for the offspeed pitch.
“I know they’re not going to let me beat them on a fastball.”
The historical imperative was stacked against the Red Sox had they lost this game.
The outlook for the 97-win Red Sox, who are counting on writing a rags-to-riches story after last year’s 69-win disaster, would have been grim. In League Championship history, 23 teams have taken 2-0 series leads and 20 of them have gone on to qualify for the World Series.
The historical outlook would have been even worse for Boston, given that both these losses would have come at home. Of the 11 teams who have fallen behind 0-2 at home in an LCS, none have advanced to the World Series and none have even been able to extend the series to a seventh game.
So even though this was only the second game of the series, Boston was battling for its playoff life and somehow pulled it off. Now , instead of heading to Detroit down two games, they will face Justin Verlander on even terms, tied at 1-1.
“It’s not very likely you’re going to come back from being that far behind that late but we just kept grinding out at-bats,” said Boston manager John Farrell. “It was almost like two different games inside one. Their pitching dominated us. But we kept coming and turned it around.
“Now it’s very different for us going to Detroit at 1-1 as opposed to 0-2. That would have been a huge challenge.”
For the second night in a row, the team that led all of Major League Baseball in most of significant offensive categories was mostly shut down by the Tigers. Saturday, the Sox were no-hit into the ninth inning by Anibal Sanchez and a quartet of relievers, finishing with one paltry single while striking out 17 times. Sunday, Scherzer held them hitless into the sixth inning and Sox hitters fanned 13 times against him. Shane Victorino’s one-out single in the sixth was the first hit of the game for Boston and only the second of the series. That hit was followed immediately by a Duston Pedroia RBI-double off the Green Monster in left field.
Boston starter Clay Buchholz pitched well enough early on, allowing a second-inning run when he gave up three consecutive hits, including Jhonny Peralta’s RBI single that gave Detroit a 1-0 lead.
That’s the way it stayed until the top of the sixth inning when the Tigers offence erupted for five consecutive hits, including a solo home run by Miguel Cabrera, back-to-back doubles by Prince Fielder and Victor Martinez and a two-run homer by Peralta, giving Detroit a 5-0 advantage.
The Pedroia RBI cut that to 5-1 and then the big uprising in the bottom of the eighth inning erased it completely.
In the bottom of the ninth, Gomes led off with an infield single and went to second base when shortstop Peralta’s throw got by Prince Fielder. Gomes then went to third on pitcher Rick Porcello’s wild pitch. Saltalamacchia followed with the game-ending hit.
“It’s playoff baseball,” said Detroit manager Jim Leyland. “It looked like we had it in hand and let it get away, no question about that. Last night our bullpen was flawless and tonight it just wasn’t as good. It’s a shame we let that one get away.”
Before Sunday’s game, Gomes was talking about how in October, everything changes. Whatever happened in the regular season is history
“At the end of Game 162 there’s a big eraser, and all your stats, everything, you know, that has a number on it goes down to zero,” said Gomes. “Once the playoffs start it’s no longer the best team. Because everyone is 0 0, everyone is batting zero and everyone’s ERA is zero. It comes down to the hottest team and momentum. And the team that can put a hold on momentum.”
Sunday, the Tigers were the hottest team and the Red Sox stepped up and turned the momentum around.
Now, it’s anybody’s game.