Shane Victorino, burdened by a .095 batting average in the Boston Red Sox's American League Championship series against the Detroit Tigers, struck when his team needed him most.
In the bottom of the seventh, with the bases loaded, Boston down 2-1 in a game that would either send the Red Sox to the World Series or send the series to a Game 7, Victorino stepped to the plate and made sure nobody will ever remember his batting average in the series or his nine strikeouts.
They'll only remember Victorino turning on an 0-2 curveball from Tigers reliever Jose Veras and crushing it over the Green Monster for a grand slam that put the Red Sox ahead 5-2. It turned out to be the homer that sent the Red Sox to the World Series, as they won the game by that same score and won the series 4-2.
"So much emotion," Victorino said, in an interview with Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal right after the game. "Boston. Boston Strong.
"When I came here. People counted me out. People said last year I was done. There was something inside of me that said I wanted to prove something."
The Red Sox, who lost 93 games in 2012 and finished last in the AL East, will now face the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series. Game 1 is Wednesday in Boston.
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It was just six days ago, right here in Fenway Park, that David Ortiz grand-slammed the Red Sox back into Game 2, hitting a shot to right field past a leaping Torii Hunter. That turned a 5-1 Red Sox deficit into a tie game the Red Sox would eventually win 6-5.
Again? Twice in the same series? Shane Victorino gave Boston twice the heart-racing elation. And gave Detroit twice the soul-crushing anguish.
One correlation between the two grand slams: Both came after Tigers starter Max Scherzer was removed with a lead. The Tigers bullpen — one of the worst in baseball in both the regular season and the postseason — will wear some of the blame here. And manager Jim Leyland will too. He was criticized mightily for pulling Scherzer in Game 2. Scherzer, the likely AL Cy Young winner, was pulled after 6 1/3 innings and 110 pitches on Saturday night.
Scherzer left after walking Xander Bogaerts in the seventh. Jonny Gomes had doubled to start the inning. Tigers fans will tell you that Scherzer was squeezed by home-plate umpire Dan Iassogna on a 3-2 pitch. After Veras was brought into the game, Jacoby Ellsbury reached on a rare error by sure-handed Tigers shortstop Jose Iglesias. What could have — maybe — been a double play instead loaded the bases and set up Victorino's hero moment.
Speaking of Victorino being a hero: That was the sixth time in his postseason career that Victorino came to bat with the bases loaded. Look at these results: 4-for-6 with two grand slams and 16 RBIs.
Four of those, Red Sox fans will never forget.
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