By Paul Doyle, The Hartford Courant
BOSTON — In a season that has defied logic, the exclamation point came out out of nowhere.
Shane Victorino carried an October slump into the batter’s box in the seventh inning of Game 6 in the American League Championship Series Saturday night. Victorino had two hits in his previous 23 at-bats as he dug in with the bases loaded the Red Sox trailing the Tigers by a run.
Victorino took a strike from Jose Veras before fouling a pitch off. The next pitch was sent high into the night, landing in the Monster Seats above the left field wall.
Victorino pumped his fist in the air as he rounded the bases and the Red Sox celebrated at home play. The grand slam propelled the Red Sox to a 5-2 victory, sending them the World Series for the first time since 2007 and the third time in 10 years.
A year ago, the notion that the Red Sox would be playing for a title in 2013 was laughable. The Red Sox finished in last place in 2012, a season punctuated by a roster purge and the firing of manager Bobby Valentine.
But revamped Red Sox won the American League East title this season and have continued their march through the postseason. They were up 3-2 in the series against the Tigers as it shifted back to Boston, but Detroit had Cy Young Award favorite Max Scherzer starting Saturday and 2011 Cy Young winner Justin Verlander looming for a potential Game 7 start Sunday.
Scherzer was stifling Boston as the game moving into the late innings. The Tigers took a 2-1 lead as they chased Red Sox starter Clay Buchholz in the sixth and Boston squandered an opportunity in the bottom of the inning, as Scherzer retired Mike Napoli and Jarrod Saltalamacchia with two runners in scoring position.
But the tide turned in the seventh. Jonny Gomes led with a double before Stephen Drew — who made a run-saving diving play at shortstop in the top of the inning — struck out. Rookie Xander Bogaerts, 21, fell behind 1-and-2 before working a walk.
Bogaerts also had a double and scored Boston’s first run on a single by Jacoby Ellsbury in the fifth. He walked twice in the game and saw 18 pitches in three plate appearances.
Ellsbury then hit a grounder up the middle that Detroit’s dynamic rookie shortstop Jose Iglesias misplayed for an error. Iglesias, traded by the Red Sox during the season, has been sure-handed all season.
With the bases loaded, Victorino was facing Veras. Victorino had grounded out, bunted into an out and was hit by a pitch before the seventh inning Saturday. He fell into an 0-and-2 hole before igniting the Fenway Park crowd with his second career postseason grand slam.