More than a few baseball experts ranked the signing of Shane Victorino to a 3 year/$39 million deal as one of the worst signings of the offseason. Victorino was coming off a down year, and it was unclear if he would ever regain his previous form. However, he proved the doubters wrong this season, slashing .294/.351/.451, and despite struggling for most of the ALCS, it was Victorino who came up with the biggest hit of the 2013 Red Sox season.
It had been a tense, evenly-matched series throughout, and tonight’s game was no exception. The game started out with a close pitching duel between Clay Buchholz and Max Scherzer, with neither team doing much damage through the first few innings. However, it was 21 year old rookie Xander Bogaerts who got the scoring started for the Red Sox. With two outs and nobody on in the fourth, Bogaerts launched a double high off the Green Monster in left-center then came across to score on a first-pitch single by Jacoby Ellsbury.
However, the Tigers were not ready to turn over. Clay Buchholz allowed a walk and a hit to start off the sixth inning, and then was promptly pulled by John Farrell. Buchholz was replaced by Franklin Morales, who walked Prince Fielder on four pitches to load the bases with no outs for scaldingly hot Victor Martinez. Martinez predictably delivered, with a line drive single to give the Tigers a 2-1 lead. However, the momentum quickly shifted on the very next play. Jhonny Peralta hit a ground ball to second. Normally, second baseman Dustin Pedroia would either try and turn the 4-6-3 double play, or try to get the runner at home plate. However, he both tagged the runner in between first and second and doubled Fielder off third to turn a double play which significantly shifted the momentum in Boston’s favor.
It took an inning, but the Red Sox would take advantage of this momentum. Jonny Gomes led off the inning, and he very nearly tied up the game right then and there, lining a ball about 36.5 feet up the Green Monster for a leadoff double. A Stephen Drew strikeout and Xander Bogaerts walk put two runners on base for the top of the lineup. However, it could have just been another rally stranded as Jacoby Ellsbury hit a ground ball up the middle, but within range of slick-fielding Jose Iglesias. Iglesias bobbled the ball, though, and Bogaerts raced into second cleanly to load the bases with just an out for Shane Victorino, who was 2-23 so far in the ALCS.
If Victorino had not lived up to his 2013 salary yet, he did right there. He took an 0-2 pitch and lifted a deep fly ball to left. Immediately it was clear that that ball was heading over the Green Monster, and as it landed a handful of rows up to Monster, Fenway Park erupted into joyous cheering. Victorino leaped as he rounded first base, and the tide had just turned in a big way. The Red Sox were on top 5-2.
Craig Breslow shut the Tigers down 1-2-3 in the eighth inning and Koji Uehara allowed just a hit in the top of the ninth as the Red Sox shut down the Tigers. Now, for the first time since 2007, the Red Sox are headed to the World Series to face the Cardinals. The turnover that the Red Sox have experienced this year is truly magnificent, but a World Series victory would make it even more memorable. It won’t be easy going up to face the Cardinals, but we’ll be there for the ride anyway. This season has been incredible, and I’m so thankful to have been a fan through it. Wednesday night can’t come soon enough.