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Monday, October 14, 2013

Red Sox Pull Off a Comeback for the Ages: Rallying to Beat Tigers 6-5 in ALCS Game 2

Let me just get this out of the way first since honestly, I hate humblebrags: I was lucky enough to attend my first Red Sox playoff game tonight, as a fan not a sportswriter. Wouldn't you know that ALCS Game 2 vs. Detroit turned out to be an unforgettable experience as Boston rallied from down 5-0 to tie it in the eighth on David Ortiz's grand slam then win it in the ninth on Jarrod Saltalamacchia's walk-off single.

The Red Sox evened the series at one, sending it to Detroit for three games in three days beginning on Tuesday (4:07, Fox) afternoon. Being there first-hand, I can admit a few things: 1) plenty of people left when it was 5-1 heading to the bottom of the eighth (who leaves a playoff game during a long weekend?), 2) nobody could have expected this since the Red Sox had one hit in the first 15.2 innings and 3) Ortiz could be the most clutch player in MLB history.

It was hard to fathom after Detroit came two outs away from a no-hitter the night before in Game 1 but Max Scherzer (7 innings, 1 earned run, 2 hits, 13 strikeouts, 2 walks) was even more locked in than Anibal Sanchez since the latter walked six batters. Clay Buchholz (5.2 innings, 5 earned runs, 8 hits, 6 strikeouts, 0 walks) on the other hand, came completely unraveled in the sixth.

Detroit had gone up 1-0 on Alex Avila's (2 hits, run, walk) RBI single in the second inning. They pushed four across in the sixth on Miguel Cabrera's solo homer, Victor Martinez's (2 doubles, 2 runs) RBI double and a two-run bomb by Avila. Brandon Workman (scoreless IP) and Felix Doubront (scoreless 1.1 IP) settled things down as the bats finally woke up.

Shane Victorino recorded Boston's first hit then came around to score on a wall ball double by Dustin Pedroia. Still the Tigers were comfortably ahead 5-1 in the eighth but somehow things lined up for Ortiz with the bases loaded and two outs. Detroit manager Jim Leyland played to win, bringing in closer Joaquin Benoit for a four-out save but Ortiz hit a missile on his first pitch in the Red Sox bullpen. It was topped off by Torii Hunter flipping over the wall in vain trying to grab it.

I don't have fresh numbers from Carmine to prove it but I feel like teams that rally from big deficits in baseball usually win, meaning that Salty's hit was a formality. Albeit a very exciting one for the home crowd. Koji Uehara (1-0) had pitched a 1-2-3 ninth on nine pitches (8 strikes) including a strikeout.

Jonny Gomes led off the bottom of the ninth against Rick Porcello (0-1) and hit an infield single that Jose Iglesias threw wide of first. One-dimensional slugger Prince Fielder butchered it, why I think he should have been charged with an error and not Iglesias. After a wild pitch, Gomes moved to third then he scored on Salty's opposite field single to left. The Red Sox chased him to second base in celebration, it was truly one of the best sporting events I've ever been to in my life.

If anything, these two games have shown us how razor thin the margin is between these two great teams. I expect the series to come back to Boston for Game 6 and possibly Game 7 since it's hard to see either team rattling off three wins in a row. John Lackey gets the tall task (no pun intended) of trying to beat Justin Verlander on Tuesday. On paper, it's a bad matchup for Boston but after tonight, it's hard to count them out in any situation.

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