Encore, Anyone? Special Sunday Will Be Tough for Red Sox to Top
Boston Red Sox's Jonny Gomes scores the winning run on a hit by Jarrod Saltalamacchia during Game 2 of the American League baseball championship series against the Detroit Tigers Sunday, Oct. 13, 2013, in Boston. At left is Detroit Tigers' Alex Avila. The Red Sox won 6-5. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
Boston Red Sox manager John Farrell, left, talks with David Ortiz after Game 2 of the American League baseball championship series against the Detroit Tigers Sunday, Oct. 13, 2013, in Boston. The Red Sox won 6-5.(AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
Boston Red Sox's Mike Napoli waits to bat during practice at Comerica Park for Game 3 of the American League baseball championship series against the Detroit Tigers in Detroit, Monday, Oct. 14, 2013. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
Boston — All that stuff about Fear the Beard, and the hard truth is that through two chilly October nights at Fenway Park Anibal Sanchez and Max Scherzer had cut through the most productive lineup in baseball like Schick and Gillette. All that stuff about the Red Sox being better than anyone at putting the previous night’s loss behind them, and all we were getting was deja vu.
The lineup card insisted they were Ellsbury, Victorino, Pedroia and all the rest. Yet through 16 anemic innings of this best-of-seven ALCS, those bearded men in Boston uniforms had swung the bats like they were Lincoln, Grant and Adams, Grizzly Adams.
And all you could think was, wow, the Red Sox hadn’t even faced the Tigers’ best pitcher yet. They don’t get Justin Verlander until Game 3 in Detroit on Tuesday.
Fenway Park was down. Fenway Park was depressed. The Red Sox couldn’t hit a lick.
One swing changed everything.
One swing by the David Ortiz, the King of Joy, changed everything. And as the Red Sox fans sing when Shane Victorino comes to the plate, “Every little thing gonna be all right.”
Ortiz stepped to the plate with two out in the bottom of the eighth against closer Joaquin Benoit and drove his first pitch into the Red Sox bullpen for the grandest of grand slams to tie the game.
“We needed it, man,” Ortiz said.
“It’s incredible,” Jarrod Saltalamacchia said. “The thing is on the bench nobody is really surprised when David does something like he does.”
Tom Brady and Big Papi. Big Papi and Tom Brady. They are the two most beloved active athletes in Boston. And on this most special of Sundays in October New England couldn’t have hugged the two any tighter or any longer.
First, in Foxborough, in a stadium fittingly named Gillette, Brady threw a 17-yard pass to rookie free agent Kenbrell Thompkins with five seconds left to lift the Patriots to a 30-27 win over the previously unbeaten Saints.
Less than five hours later, in a stadium fittingly not named Gillette, the bearded men struck again. Tigers right fielder Torii Hunter almost split himself in half on the fence trying to spear Ortiz’ drive. The cop in the bullpen just watched it all, jumping up and down. It was a fascinating sight.
You just knew what would happen next. You knew the Tigers would rattle. You knew the Red Sox would win in the bottom of the ninth. And so they did.
“Our guys don’t quit until the last out,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said. “David so many times has come up big in the postseason. None bigger than tonight. He has the ability to stay calm.”
Leading off the ninth, Jonny Gomes, who hadn’t played in the opener, hit a bouncer toward the hole at short and Jose Iglesias, projected to be one of the greatest fielding shortstops in Red Sox history before he was dealt to Detroit at the trade deadline, threw the ball into the Boston dugout.
That put Gomes on second base. He went to third on Rick Porcello’s wild pitch and Saltalamacchia singled him home for the 6-5 victory to the tie the series at one game apiece. The Red Sox charged out of the dugout in celebration. It was an extraordinary ending to an extraordinary day in Boston sports.
“There have been two great baseball games,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. “We let one get away, no question about it.”
Remember the first few months of the season? Remember when Scherzer refused to lose? Remember when Clay Buchholz refused to lose? The early debate was which one win the Cy Young? Buchholz won his first six starts and was 9-0 with 1.71 ERA before he was lost for three months with a neck problem. Buchholz was so good there was even a lot of goofy talk out of Toronto at one point about him doctoring the ball.
The Red Sox didn’t lose more than three games in a row all season, the first team since the 2005 St. Louis Cardinals that could say that. Buchholz, in particular, was always tough after the Red Sox lost a game. Then again, he was always tough after the Red Sox won a game. When you finish 12-1 and your team is 14-2 on nights you pitch, well ...
Buchholz kept the game under control until the sixth inning. That’s when he had his doors blown off.
Miggy’s hurting. Miggy’s not the same because of those lingering abdominal/groin problems. Miggy can’t put a charge into the ball right now. Well, Miguel Cabrera put a charge into the high change Buchholz threw to him in the top of the sixth, just as Evan Longoria put one into a Buchholz high change in Game 3 of the ALDS at Tampa Bay. By the time Miggy’s moon shot landed in the left field light standards it was 2-0. Prince Fielder doubled to left, Victor Martinez smashed a curveball into the right-center field gap and it was 3-0. Alex Avila crushed a first-pitch fastball to right-field for a two-run homer that made it 5-0. When Omar Infante followed with Detroit’s fifth hit in a four-run sixth, Farrell had seen enough.
The Red Sox have struck out an amazing 32 times in two games. Every pitcher seemed more effective than the next … until the eighth. Jose Veras, Drew Smyly, Al Alburquerque and finally Benoit. Leyland chose not to go to lefty Phil Coke against Ortiz. He paid for that one.
Leyland said Coke hasn’t pitched a big game. Benoit, he said, is “our guy against lefties.”
Said Ortiz: “If I told you I was thinking about a grand slam right there, I’d be lying to you. Torii always scares me. He’s one of the best outfielders I’ve seen in my life. The reason I think he didn’t catch the ball was because the ball took a left turn. Torii is a trooper out there. He’s fun to watch.”
It was even more fun for New England on this special Sunday to watch him not catch it.