The Boston Red Sox defeated the Detroit Tigers 5-2 on Saturday night to win the American League pennant.
This is the third time in ten years that the Boston will represent the American League in the World Series and the second time they will face off against the St. Louis Cardinals in rematch from 2004.
And who do the Red Sox have to thank for this opportunity? Shane Victorino, a player who turned down more money from the Indians for the chance to play for the Red Sox. Thanks to his seventh inning grand slam of Detroit’s Jose Veras, the Red Sox will have a the chance to claim their third title of this millennium. Apparently, he is not as washed up as we all thought.
For the Tigers, this marks yet another disappointing end to another season full of promise and huge expectations. Last year’s World Series runners-up simply ran out of gas, and possibly evening their postseason magic, on their way to another offseason that is sure to result in more than a few changes. They’ve won the AL Central three straight years and made it to the World Series twice since 2006 with nothing to show for it.
No one can blame Max Scherzer, though. In his 6.1 innings of work on Saturday night, he limited to Red Sox offense to only one run on four hits before he was pulled. Yes, he walked five batters, but he also struck out eight to eliminate many of the Red Sox opportunities. He was even pitching with a lead thanks to a two run single by Victor Martinez in the sixth.
Unfortunately, due to an elevated pitch count, Jim Leyland didn’t let him work out of a seventh inning jam. Following a Johnny Gomes double and Xander Boegarts walk, Scherzer was pulled in favor of Drew Smyly. After an error by the usually sure handed Jose Iglesias, Jose Veras was brought in to fave Visctorino with the bases loaded. It didn’t end well, at least not for the Tigers.
Down 0-2, Veras hung a breaking ball out over the middle of the plate. Victorino didn’t let it go to waste. He put good wood on the pitch and barely cleared the green monster out on left field. The grand slam put the Red Sox up 5-2 and closed the book on Scherzer for the night, 6.1 innings, 3 runs, 4 hits, 5 walks, 8 strikeouts.
Afterwards, the only question on many people’s minds was why make a move away from Scherzer in a must win situation? Pitch counts be damned in a must win situation, right? Well, hindsight is always 20/20 and for the Tigers, they will have to sit and wonder what might have been had Leyland not gone away from his stud pitcher in favor of a shaky bullpen.
After Victorino’s grand slam, it seemed all but inevitable that the Red Sox would be heading back to the World Series. With their bullpen and Koji Uehara lurking in the shadows, the thought of the Tigers plating three runs before making the final six outs of the game seemed like a pipe dream.
Craig Breslow, who was an Indian back in 2008 and proof that you can find quality relievers without spending mountains of cash, worked a perfect top half of the eighth inning and set the stage for Uehara to once again work his magic in the ninth.
He didn’t disappoint.
Koji Uehara entered the game in the top of the ninth inning to protect Boston’s 5-2 lead and he did just that. He was as dominant as always as he struck out Alex Avila, got a gift out from Omar Infante as he attempted to bunt his way on base, and then struck out Jose Iglesias to end it and get the party started. To the surprise of no one, Uehara was awarded the ALCS MVP honors.