Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s game-winning single with no one out in the ninth off Rick Porcello capped an improbable comeback and changed the complexion of a series that was severely tilted in favor of Detroit.
Max Scherzer took over where Anibal Sanchez and the Tigers pen left off in Game 1 and held the Sox hitless until Shane Victorino laced a single to right with two outs in the sixth.
Trailing 5-0, Dustin Pedroia and his traveling laser show hit one above the scoreboard on the Green Monster driving home Victorino, who ran full speed from first on contact.
Those would be the only two hits the dominant Scherzer allowed. He struck out 13 over seven innings and had Boston and Fenway scratching their collected heads in disbelief.
For Boston, Clay Buchholz would be just as strong over five innings. Sadly, he pitched into the sixth.
Leading 1-0 in the top of the sixth, Miguel Cabrera put one into the Monster seats and it was off to the races from there. Prince Fielder doubled off the wall in left. Victor Martinez doubled home Fielder and, an out later, Alex Avila hit one over the bullpens in right to give Detroit a 5-0 lead sending most watching on television elsewhere.
Buchholz did not finish the inning.
Detroit manager Jim Leyland correctly lifted Scherzer after seven and trusted his bullpen to close the door. A strategy that failed.
Will Middlebrooks doubled with one out down the line in left off Jose Veras. Veras gave way to Drew Smyly who walked Jacoby Ellsbury. Al Alburquerque would replace Smyly and struck out Victorino. Staying into face Pedroia, Alburquerque allowed a seeing eye single to right loading the bases.
Leyland would bring in closer Joaquin Benoit, not lefty Phil Coke, to face David Ortiz.
Ortiz, who has such a flair for the dramatic, gave Red Sox Nation another moment to cherish as he hammered a shot over the glove of a diving Torii Hunter straight into the catching glove of Boston’s bullpen catcher for a game-tying grand slam.
As in 2004, Ortiz lead the charge in giving the Red Sox a wild comeback that saved a series headed south.
Until Victorino’s hit, the Red Sox offense was extinct.
Hitters approached Scherzer better than they did Sanchez Saturday, but could not make contact or swung at great pitches in the strike zone. Scherzer flat out pitched a gem.
The crowd at Fenway was dead.
They watched quarterback Tom Brady lead the New England Patriots to a last-second comeback win against the New Orleans Saints on the big centerfield scoreboard before the game and settled in for the nightcap.
Instead, they saw the Sox offense sputter and stall.
Victorino’s sixth-inning single woke them. Pedroia’s double had them cheering. By the eighth inning, they were ready to believe again.
This was a bitter loss for the Tigers.
All year, their biggest problem was closing games out; a flaw exposed raw for all to see Sunday.
Facing their biggest deficit, the Red Sox took it on and got the job done in a game that will be remembered, however the series plays out.
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