BOSTON (CBS) – Fenway Park was an emotional roller coaster for the 38,000-plus on hand for Game 6 of the ALCS on Saturday night, and there were moments when it looked like “just one of those nights” for the Red Sox.
Yet, in the bottom of the seventh inning, it all changed with one swing of the bat.
Mired in a dreadful slump and behind in the count 0-2, Shane Victorino sent a curveball from Jose Veras deep down the left field line. When it came down, Victorino had himself a grand slam, and he turned a 2-1 deficit into a 5-2 lead, which would hold for the final score.
The Red Sox now move on to the World Series, where they’ll face the Cardinals in a rematch of the 2004 Fall Classic.
The Key Moment
Victorino’s grand slam was obviously the moment that changed the game, but it was made possible by some solid at-bats and a fortuitous break for Boston.
Jonny Gomes, in the lineup despite all statistics saying he shouldn’t be, led off with a double off the Monster that was less than 1 foot shy of being the game-tying home run. Stephen Drew then struck out, but Xander Bogaerts, showing what is becoming his trademark patience at the plate, worked a one-out walk.
Jacoby Ellsbury then hit what could have been a double play ball up the middle, but slick-handed shortstop Jose Iglesias bobbled the ball. It would have been tough for Iglesias to turn two with Ellsbury’s speed down the line, but his failure to even record one out was huge.
With the bases loaded, Veras entered, Victorino stepped up, and you know the rest by now.
“The Man” is a no-brainer from this one.
Victorino had been just 2-for-23 in the ALCS before his at-bat in the seventh, and he made a critical mistake earlier in the game when he popped up a bunt for an out when he was trying to sacrifice runners to second and third in the third inning.
That mistake doesn’t even register as a footnote, though, thanks to his seventh-inning grand slam that brought Fenway Park to its loudest possible point and propelled the Red Sox to the win.
(Special mention to Koji Uehara, for throwing nothing but strikes in a no-doubt-about-it save situation, and Stephen Drew, for making a spectacular diving play to keep the score at 2-1 in the seventh inning.)
The shortstop who made the play of the year during the summer and then made highlight reels across the country with his incredible catch in this series had his hands fail him at the very worst moment.
As mentioned earlier, it would have been tough for Iglesias to flip Ellsbury’s grounder to Omar Infante quickly enough to turn two. But the error was nevertheless a bit of a back-breaker for the Tigers, as it’s just not easy to escape bases-loaded, one-out jams at Fenway Park.
The World Series. Game 1, Wednesday night, Fenway Park. It’s hard to have a much better outlook than that.