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Red Sox beat Tigers 5-2 to advance to World Series

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BOSTON (AP) — When Shane Victorino signed with the Boston Red Sox as a free agent in the offseason, they were coming off a last-place finish that was their worst in almost half a century. They had fired their manager for the second year in a row.

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Boston Red Sox relief pitcher Koji Uehara, center, celebrates with teammates after the Red Sox 5-2 beat the Detroit Tigers in Game 6 of the American League baseball championship series on Saturday, Oct. 19, 2013, in Boston. The Red Sox advance to the World Series. (AP Photo/Tim Donnelly)

He believed they could turn it around.

And quickly.

Victorino brought the Red Sox one big step closer to completing their comeback, sending them to the World Series with a seventh-inning grand slam that gave Boston a 5-2 victory over the Detroit Tigers in Game 6 of the AL championship series Saturday night.

The Red Sox will open the Series on Wednesday night against the St. Louis Cardinals, the team they swept in 2004 to end their 86-year title drought. The Cardinals won the NL pennant on Friday night by eliminating the Los Angeles Dodgers in six games.

"It's one of those moments you live for," Victorino said as he wandered around the Fenway Park infield while Red Sox fans serenaded him with his theme song, Bob Marley's "Three Little Birds," and its chorus, "Don't worry about a thing, 'Cause every little thing is gonna be all right."

"Just listen to the crowd," Victorino said, referring then to the Boston Marathon bombings that left the city reeling during the first month of his first season in town. "The one thing I came here to do is to be a part of this city. With all we went through as a city, there's definitely a bond."

Detroit took a 2-1 lead in the sixth and 21-game winner Max Scherzer protected it until the seventh, when Boston loaded the bases on a double, a walk and an error by rookie shortstop Jose Iglesias, traded by the Red Sox in July.

Victorino fell behind Jose Veras 0-2 but lofted a hanging curveball over the Green Monster to set off a celebration in the Red Sox dugout and in the Fenway Park stands.

"It's been a special ride, and we're still going," second baseman Dustin Pedroia said. "We're not going to stop. We know what our goal is. We want to win the World Series."

Junichi Tazawa got one out for the win, Craig Breslow pitched a scoreless eighth and series MVP Koji Uehara got the last three outs before the Red Sox poured out of the dugout to begin their now-familiar celebration on the mound.

"The way I would sum it up is that I thought their starters were good," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "I thought their bullpen was great."

Uehara, who inherited the closer job after the team's first two choices were injured, posted three saves and a win in the series. Then he joked about pitching so well under pressure.

"To tell you the truth, I almost threw up," Uehara kidded through a translator.

It's the 13th AL pennant for the Red Sox and their first since 2007, when they swept the Colorado Rockies to win it all for the second time in four seasons. Boston swept the Cardinals in '04, winning Game 4 in St. Louis to clinch the title that put an end to generations of disappointment.

The latest trip comes one year after a 69-win season that prompted the team to jettison its high-priced stars, rebuild the roster and bring in manager John Farrell to replace Bobby Valentine. Victorino was one of the biggest additions, and he delivered on Saturday as he did for much of the season.

"Since the first day of spring training, there wasn't one person more important than the next," said outfielder Jonny Gomes, another newcomer, who doubled to lead off the seventh, missing a homer over the Green Monster by no more than a foot. "We're all pulling in the same direction."

Scherzer got one out in the seventh but left after walking rookie Xander Bogaerts to put runners on first and second. Drew Smyly got Jacoby Ellsbury to hit a grounder up the middle, but it popped out of Iglesias' glove behind second base and everyone was safe.

Veras came in and quickly got ahead of Victorino. But he hung a curveball and Victorino sent it toward the 37-foot left-field wall, which had already knocked down two Red Sox line drives.

This one left no doubt.

It was the second career postseason slam for Victorino, who also had a record-setting hit-by-pitch in the sixth but failed to get a bunt down in the third.

"He's come up big a number of times this season, none bigger," Farrell said. "Probably the last thing we're thinking of, that he's going to hit a ball out of the ballpark, and thankfully the curveball stayed (up)."

Scherzer and Clay Buchholz also matched up in Game 2, when the Tigers right-hander took a no-hitter and a 5-0 lead into the sixth. The Red Sox rallied against the Detroit bullpen, tying it on David Ortiz's eighth-inning grand slam and winning it in the ninth on Jarrod Saltalamacchia's walk-off single through a drawn-in infield.

Both starters gave up hits in the first inning in the rematch, but it remained scoreless until Bogaerts doubled off the Green Monster with two outs in the fifth and scored on Ellsbury's single.

But the Tigers took the lead in the bottom half, chasing Buchholz with a walk and Miguel Cabrera's single before Franklin Morales walked Prince Fielder on four pitches to load the bases with nobody out.

Victor Martinez lined one high off the Green Monster to make it 2-1, holding at first with a two-run single.

Brandon Workman came in and got Jhonny Peralta to hit a hard grounder to Pedroia, who chased down Martinez in the basepath for one out and then threw home to get Fielder in a rundown. Saltalamacchia ran him back to third and dove, somersaulting over him while making the tag.

Workman struck out Alex Avila looking to end the inning.

Scherzer worked out of a jam in the bottom half after putting runners on second and third with one out. He allowed three runs on four hits and five walks, striking out seven in 6 1-3 innings.

Buchholz gave up two runs on four hits and two walks, striking out four in five-plus innings.

Scherzer walked the first two batters in the third, but Victorino popped up a bunt and Scherzer made a sliding catch for the first out.

Pedroia hit a high drive that was just foul of the Carlton Fisk pole above the Green Monster. After it was confirmed by replay, he hit a hard grounder down the line that Cabrera fielded, easily stepping on third base before throwing to first for the double play.

NOTES: It will be the first World Series between the teams with the best record in each league since 1999. ... Detroit C Alex Avila, who absorbed a body shot and a foul ball off the mask in Game 5, took another ball off the mask in the fourth but remained in the game. ... The Dropkick Murphys sang the national anthem before the game, followed by "Shipping up to Boston," wearing Red Sox jerseys that said "Boston Strong" and the number 617. ... The Red Sox are 6-0 in Game 6 of the ALCS. ... Ellsbury had successfully stolen 18 bases in a row in the regular season and playoffs before being thrown out in the fifth. ... Victorino was hit by a pitch leading off the sixth, his sixth of the playoffs, extending his record and setting a major league record with the 10th postseason HBP of his career. Alex Rodriguez had the old record.


World Series: Fresh-faced Cards vs bearded Bosox
BEN WALKER, AP Baseball Writer

Big Papi, Dustin Pedroia and the bearded guys from Boston. Michael Wacha, Trevor Rosenthal and those fresh mugs from St. Louis.

Pretty neat face-off in this World Series.

Cardinals-Red Sox, once again in October. Fully rested, they'll start Wednesday night at Fenway Park with Boston opening as a slim favorite.

Postseason stars from past and present — Carlos Beltran, David Freese, John Lackey, David Ortiz and Adam Wainwright.

Juicy plotlines — can Gold Glove catcher Yadier Molina shut down Jacoby Ellsbury and the runnin' Red Sox? Can all-world closer Koji Uehara stop Matt Holliday and the Cardinals?

Plus, plenty of history — think Stan Musial vs. Ted Williams in 1946, Bob Gibson vs. Carl Yastrzemski in '67 or Pedro Martinez vs. Albert Pujols in 2004. Or, perhaps more memorably that last time, Curt Schilling and the bloody sock vs. The Curse.

The Red Sox and Cardinals are hardly arch enemies, however. They haven't played since Kevin Youkilis homered over the Green Monster in the 13th inning on June 22, 2008.

This year, Boston and St. Louis bounced back from disappointments and tied for the most victories in the majors with 97. Not since the Braves and Yankees in 1999 have league win leaders met in the World Series (the Cardinals and Red Sox were the top-scoring teams in their leagues, too).

Mike Napoli, Shane Victorino and Boston's scraggly band rose under first-year manager John Farrell, a season after the team hit bottom under Bobby Valentine with its most losses in nearly five decades.

Matt Carpenter, Matt Adams and St. Louis rebounded a year after wasting a 3-1 lead in the NL championship series against the Giants. Manager Mike Matheny got lots of help from a rookie-laden staff.

Wacha was the MVP of the NLCS and is 3-0 with an 0.43 ERA in the postseason. Rosenthal took over the closer role with a 100 mph fastball. Shelby Miller, Carlos Martinez and others also made major contributions.

The Cardinals captured their 19th NL pennant by trouncing Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers on Friday night in Game 6 of the NLCS.

"Watching them last night, they've got a fantastic team. And a lot of young power arms that will walk to that mound," Farrell said.

The Red Sox earned their 13th pennant Saturday night, riding Victorino's go-ahead grand slam to a 5-2 victory over Detroit in Game 6 of the ALCS. Uehara was the MVP with a win and three saves.

"It's been a special ride," Pedroia said, "and we're still going."

For Beltran, this will be his first time in the World Series. For the Cardinals, it's their fourth trip in 10 years.

For the Red Sox, it's their third Series visit in the last decade. And they hope for a repeat performance from 2004, when they never trailed during a four-game sweep of the Cardinals and won their first championship since 1918.

Johnny Damon playfully called his Boston teammates a bunch of "idiots" and Kevin Millar exhorting them to "Cowboy Up!" Manny Ramirez was the MVP of the series while Ortiz showed he was more than a slugger, switching from designated hitter to snazzy fielder at first base when the Series shifted to old Busch Stadium.

There are just a few leftovers from that fall.

Ortiz lined a key grand slam in this ALCS. Molina is now regarded as baseball's best defensive catcher — he was 21 in that '04 matchup and a backup to Matheny.

Now, their teams are set to meet for the fourth time in a World Series. Aside from Dodgers-Yankees, there hasn't been a more common pairing since that initial Red Sox-Cardinals meeting in 1946.

Here we go again.

"We've still got one more step," Victorino said.

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