Victorino turned on that last one, and the Red Sox are in the World Series because of it. The shot settled just over the Green Monster in left, the grand slam that gave Boston a 5-2 victory over the Tigers, whose starting rotation pitched so superbly but whose bullpen again did them in. The Sox took the series, four games to two, and will open the World Series Wednesday night at Fenway Park, which by then may have recovered from the delirium Victorino provided.
“My emotions are getting me,” Victorino said on the field afterward, as his teammates hugged all around him. “A special moment. Something I will never forget. It’s the ALCS. We have another task ahead of us. But this team all year long? It’s a special group of guys.”
And it was, in fact, a special series, tense at almost every turn. Victorino’s shot provided Boston with its only victory that wasn’t by one run. Each team had a 1-0 victory. Until Victorino’s game-changer, Saturday night was a one-run affair throughout.
“This series had a little bit of everything — dramatic comeback wins, dominant starting pitching, particularly on their part,” Red Sox Manager John Farrell said. “You couldn’t have asked for a better series. It tested everything we had, pushed us to the limit.”
And it pushed the Tigers, who were looking for their second pennant in a row, into the offseason, where they will have much to consider. Their $214 million slugging first baseman, Prince Fielder, finished a miserable series with an 0-for-3 night that left him with four singles in 22 ALCS at-bats, and without an RBI for the entire postseason. Their Triple Crown winner and MVP from a year ago, Miguel Cabrera, was a fraction of his full self, ripping a single and scoring a run Saturday, but ultimately reduced by his bad groin.
And the Tigers’ biggest preseason question — the bullpen — simply couldn’t keep up with the relievers from the Red Sox. When Farrell turned to his pen to take over for fading right-hander Clay Buchholz in the sixth, he could do so with confidence. Yes, Franklin Morales’s unforgivable outing at that point — a four-pitch walk to the flailing Fielder, then a rocket of a single to Victor Martinez that put Detroit up 2-1 – was a stain for the Boston bullpen.
But beyond that, Brandon Workman, Junichi Tazawa, Craig Breslow and Koji Uehara — who saved three Boston wins and won the other, earning most valuable player honors — were their splendid selves. Over the final four innings, that group combined to allow three hits, extending a remarkable postseason in which Red Sox relievers have now given up one run in 21 innings, a 0.43 ERA.