BOSTON — The Red Sox are American League champions.
It was a battle, but Boston toppled Detroit in six games in the ALCS to punch its ticket to the World Series. The Cardinals await.
The Red Sox won Game 6 in — surprise, surprise — thrilling fashion. Shane Victorino lifted a grand slam into the Monster seats in the seventh inning to put Boston in front 5-2, and the Sox never looked back.
The atmosphere was absolutely crazy at Fenway Park all night Saturday, but Victorino’s grand slam brought things to another level. The Flyin’ Hawaiian pounded his chest as he rounded first base, and Red Sox fans — knowing that they were suddenly six defensive outs away from the World Series — went berserk.
“It was a special moment,” Victorino said after the game. “It’s been a special year. We battled and good moments like this, you cherish.”
Craig Breslow and Koji Uehara recorded the final six outs. Jose Iglesias, who was traded to the Tigers from the Red Sox just before the trade deadline, struck out swinging to end the game.
Things are only going to get tougher for the Red Sox in the World Series. The Sox and Cards tied for the best record in baseball during the regular season, and St. Louis has plenty of experience on the big stage.
Before we shift our focus to the World Series, let’s tie up some loose ends from Saturday’s ALCS clincher.
It was pretty clear that Pedroia’s home-run bid sailed foul, but the umpires took another look at it after John Farrell came out of the Red Sox’ dugout for a chat. It was the eighth instant replay review ever in the postseason, and the sixth review in which the original call was upheld.
The last postseason play to be overturned following a review came in Game 4 of the 2010 ALCS, when Lance Berkman had a home run overturned.
“That question was definitely in my head, ‘How am I going to explain this, not getting the bunt down,'” Victorino said after the game. “And in a crucial situation where you’ve got to minimize the mistakes, every single thing counts. It makes it that much more special [to hit a grand slam]. I knew all along this was going to be a special team.”
More from that Victorino fella in a bit.
The previous postseason record was held by the 2001 Diamondbacks, whose starting pitchers compiled 51 strikeouts in their seven-game World Series victory over the Yankees. That rotation, of course, was anchored by Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling.
Bogaerts doubled off the wall in left-center field with two outs in the fifth inning, and came around to score the game’s first run when Jacoby Ellsbury singled into right field.
Bogaerts later worked a six-pitch walk with one out in the seventh inning. It not only added to the Red Sox’ rally before Victorino’s big blast, but it drove Scherzer from the game after 110 pitches.
“You know, in the first walk, he lays off a two‑strike slider that was just off the plate. And it was a moment where you saw — I think [Alex] Avila might have said something to him, he looked at him and nodded his head — that he saw the pitch, took it, worked a walk,” Farrell said. “But much like we’ve gotten all reports all year long from our development staff, he’s beyond his years. He’s got a bright, bright future.”
Bogaerts, who was inserted into the starting lineup before Game 5 of the ALCS, finished 1-for-1 with a double, two walks and two runs scored in Game 6. He has reached safely in eight of his 11 postseason plate appearances, and has scored seven runs.
Jhonny Peralta hit a ground ball to second base with Martinez on first and Fielder on third. Pedroia made the play and tagged Martinez between first and second. Fielder, for some strange reason, stopped dead in his tracks between third and home, which allowed Pedroia to toss to the plate after tagging V-Mart. Fielder got caught up in a rundown, and Jarrod Saltalamacchia chased him back toward third base and applied a tag to complete the unique double play.
“Yeah, probably, but it’s over, bro,'” Fielder said after the game when asked if he should have continued running home.
Fielder went 4-for-22 with no home runs and no RBIs in the ALCS. He finished the playoffs batting .225 (9-for-40) with just one extra-base hit and without a single RBI in 11 games.
How tough was it for Fielder to suck — for lack of a better term — all postseason?
“It’s not really tough, man,” Fielder said. “For me, it’s over. I got kids I gotta take care of. I got things to take care of. For me, it’s over, bro.”
Fielder was told while speaking with the media that some fans might not understand how it’s so easy for him to get over such a crushing defeat, and the slugger gave the classic, “Because they don’t play,” response.
“You play hard. You give it all you’ve got and then there’s life,” Fielder said. “I got two boys I gotta take care of. I’m not going to sit around and be pouty all day and try to help them become men if I’m over here pouting. It is what it is, bro.”
Given all of the hoopla that surrounds professional sports, it’s often easy to lose sight of the fact that this is still a job for these athletes. Still, no one likes an employee with a lethargic attitude who brings the whole staff down.
Fielder only has seven years and $168 million remaining on his nine-year, $214 million contract. Sorry, Detroit.
Franklin Morales walked Fielder on four pitches and surrendered a two-run wall-ball single to Martinez after taking over for Clay Buchholz in the sixth inning. Workman was then asked to minimize the damage, and he did a very nice job. After Fielder’s baserunning blunder, Workman struck out Alex Avila looking with a fastball on the outside corner.
Workman ran into some trouble in the seventh inning when an infield single kicked off his glove and an error put two runners on for Miguel Cabrera. Junichi Tazawa helped pick up the pieces, though, and Workman ultimately was credited with 1 2/3 scoreless innings.
Workman started the season at Double-A. Now, he’s pitching in pressure-packed playoff situations in the majors and handling it with poise.
“I just grabbed Bogaerts and said, ‘We’re a long way from Portland right now, aren’t we’” Workman told reporters after Saturday’s game. “Obviously for both of us, it’s what we planned on — well, not planned, but were hoping to do this year, and to be able to do it, and both of us contributing a little bit, it’s special right now.”
Stephen Drew has taken heat all postseason for his lack of offensive production, and he did nothing to help his case in that department in Game 6. Drew went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts, and is now hitting .086 (3-for-35) with 12 strikeouts in the postseason. Farrell has stuck by his starting shortstop because of his defense, however, and it paid dividends in the seventh inning.
Cabrera hit a ground ball up the middle with runners on first and second and two outs. It looked destined for center field, which would have extended Detroit’s lead, but Drew made a fantastic diving stop. The play kept the Tigers’ lead at 2-1.
Iglesias was less fortunate on a ground ball up the middle in the bottom of the seventh inning. Ellsbury hit what had the potential to be an inning-ending double play, but the ball kicked off Iglesias’ glove, allowing everyone to reach safely. Victorino hit the go-ahead grand slam three pitches later.
“I want to make that play so bad, but unfortunately, I couldn’t get it done,” Iglesias said. “You turn that double play the inning would be completely different. It was over. They just got some momentum and Shane hit a grand slam. So that was huge.”
Ellsbury’s ground ball wasn’t exactly a routine play, but for a 23-year-old infielder looking to carve out a big league career based solely on defense, it’s a play that must be made.
The Red Sox are just the sixth team in MLB history to hit multiple grand slams in a single postseason series, and the first to do so in the ALCS.
The Red Sox are the first team ever to hit two game-tying or go-ahead grand slams in the seventh inning or later in a single postseason.
“No disrespect, and I would never be one of those guys, if guys took it wrong, but I was definitely excited running around the bases, the pounding in my chest,” Victorino said. “I’ve been that kind of guy. I don’t like when teams show that kind of emotion. And I hope they understand it was a special moment for me, for the city. And no disrespect, again, the guys across the way, we played the Tigers, I respect those guys like no other, the staff, everybody. It was a special moment. And like I said, no disrespect to them, but this was a battle to the end.”
Uehara pitches six scoreless innings and recorded three saves while appearing in five of the six games.
“I am tired right now,” Uehara said through an interpreter after Game 6.