MacArthur: Ortiz authors another storied Red Sox moment

Scott MacArthur
10/14/2013 9:52:20 AM
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BOSTON - First, a warning: There will be no in-depth statistical analysis here of what happened at Fenway Park on Sunday night.

There will be no attempt to affirm, or deny, the existence of the clutch hitter in baseball and whether David Ortiz fits the bill.

Instead, there will be the celebration of a moment, or a series of moments, in an epic game of what has the makings of being an epic American League Championship Series.

The experience, sitting in the right field auxiliary press box, began before the first pitch. Flat-screen televisions are fastened to the top of the green beams supporting the second deck. Early arrivers sat, necks craned, glued to the last-minute, game-winning touchdown drive Tom Brady was completing down the road in Foxborough.

When receiver Kenbrell Thompkins caught the pass to secure a 30-27 win over the New Orleans Saints, a raucous cheer went up, surely a strange scene for the handful of Detroit Tigers who remained on the field at the end of batting practice.

Less than an hour later, Game 2 began. Mathematically speaking it wasn't a must-win game for the Red Sox, but Justin Verlander is on deck for the Tigers in Tuesday's Game 3 and to be down a couple and heading to Detroit, well, you get the picture.

Having been one-hit by Anibal Sanchez and four Tigers' relievers in a 1-0 loss to open the series the night before, Boston's hitters picked up where they left off. Detroit's Max Scherzer was every bit the Cy Young Award winner he's likely to be.

He struck out two Red Sox in each of the first three innings, racked up another strikeout and a double play in the fourth and another strikeout in the fifth. At that point, Scherzer had yet to allow a hit.

In the meantime, the Tigers had scored a run in the second on a Victor Martinez double and Alex Avila RBI single.

Then came the sixth, when Detroit batted around, scoring four runs on five hits and chasing Red Sox starter Clay Buchholz from the game.

Detroit led 5-0. Scherzer was more than halfway toward a no-hitter. It was happening again, just like the night before, except the deficit was much larger. With no ghosts of Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio and Mantle to draw upon, Boston would later find out that the living, in this case the lone holdover from both the 2004 and 2007 championship teams, would create a special moment.

The Red Sox got on the board with one out in the sixth when Shane Victorino singled, ending Scherzer's no-hit bid, before Dustin Pedroia doubled him home. In the blink of an eye Boston had scored a run and pieced together two hits in a game – new ground for the home side in this young series.

And it's worth mentioning, when Victorino singled the crowd roared. But they weren't mocking the dry Red Sox offence; they were trying to spurn them on. As Pedroia's at-bat played out, a hearty “Let's Go Red Sox” chant filled Fenway. Give the fans an inch and they'll attempt to take the mile, or at the very least remind the local heroes who has their backs.

Scherzer worked a clean seventh, the score was still 5-1, and his night was finished.

Cue the eighth, which proved to be the return of the Tigers' not-so-vaunted bullpen. The four-headed monster of Joaquin Benoit, Drew Smyly, Jose Veras and Al Alburquerque did a fine job in Game 1. Sunday evening, not so much.

Veras started the inning getting Stephen Drew on a ground out. But then, Will Middlebrooks doubled. Tigers' manager Jim Leyland went into matchup mode, calling for the left-handed Smyly to deal with the left-handed Jacoby Ellsbury. Except, in what was the pivotal at-bat in the inning before the heroics, Smyly walked Boston's centrefielder. Alburquerque was summoned and struck out Shane Victorino but then allowed a single to Pedroia, loading the bases with two outs for Ortiz.

Leyland had left-hander Phil Coke, who hadn't pitched in a big league game since September 18, and his closer, the right-hander Benoit, warming in the bullpen.

Leyland elected Benoit.

Benoit's first pitch to Ortiz, a changeup, was sent on a line over the right-centerfield wall and into the Red Sox's bullpen. Ortiz's good friend, Tigers' right fielder Torii Hunter, launched himself over the short fence in an attempt to make the catch, but to no avail.

The game was tied 5-5. The crowd erupted. Many more of them, and much louder, than had bellowed during batting practice when Brady launched his game-winning touchdown pass.

Ortiz had authored yet another moment in his sparkling Red Sox career, cemented an inning later when Jarrod Saltalamacchia's walk off single scored Jonny Gomes with the winning run.

Again, pandemonium.

After everything, boil it down and the series is tied at a game apiece with the venue shifting to Comerica Park on Tuesday afternoon.

Much has been made of this first-ever playoff matchup between two of baseball's iconic franchises, these Red Sox and Tigers.

Buckle up, it's just getting started. Looks like the first time's a charm.

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