Red Sox bats wake up in hurry to even ALCS
BOSTON -- These Red Sox won't cop to the idea that their optimism was dented through the first 16 innings of this American League Championship Series, even as they seemed to be overmatched by the Tigers' stellar starting pitching, flailing their way into the record books with an eye-popping strikeout total.
It takes a good deal of cajoling just to draw an acknowledgement that there was any frustration growing in the home dugout while Max Scherzer mowed them down, carrying a no-hitter into the sixth. It also doesn't matter anymore, as the momentum of this series changed in a flash.
"They say you need kindling to start a fire. We just couldn't find that kindling for a while," said Boston's Jonny Gomes, who raced home on Jarrod Saltalamacchia's walk-off single in the ninth. "The way this team's built, there were no doubts in our mind when we had no hits in the sixth that we were going to win it."
And then trailing by four runs with four outs to go? The odds didn't really agree, but you would have been wasting your breath to say anything to the contrary. Gomes said that fearlessness was built by the Sox all season long, and of course no lead is really ever safe at the Fens.
It's obvious that no one on Boston's side was pleased by seeing the scorecards littered with forward and backward K's; Scherzer racked up 13 of them over his seven innings before the Tigers bullpen' tried to put a 2-0 series advantage in Justin Verlander's pocket for Tuesday's Game 3 (8 p.m. ET on FOX).
"As frustrating as it is to see our offense not do it, hey, we ultimately did it in the end," Shane Victorino said. "That's what it's all about, going out there and playing until the end. Could you say we were as frustrated as frustrated could be? Absolutely."
"As a team in that situation, you have to just do what you can -- work at-bats, grind at-bats, get the pitch count up," Will Middlebrooks said. "As much as they don't seem like they're human at the time, they are. They're going to get tired and we're going to get in that bullpen."
Once they did, there was certainly blame to go around for Detroit's relievers -- each of the runs scored on Ortiz's slam off Joaquin Benoit were charged to a different pitcher, a statistical rarity that allows Jose Veras, Drew Smyly and Al Alburquerque to share some blame.
Even more remarkably, in a career highlighted by clutch hits, the grand slam was Ortiz's first in the postseason and just the fourth in Red Sox postseason history.
"We needed it, man," Ortiz said. "We needed to start some momentum going on. Going back to Detroit 1-1 ... in that game we're going to have on Tuesday against Verlander, I'm pretty sure you're going to see guys having better at-bats."
Outside the ancient clubhouse on Fenway's first-base side, the capacity crowd rushed past the doors, many wearing their playoff beards -- some false, many real -- and thunderously chanting, "Papi! Papi!"
Inside that room, Red Sox backup catcher David Ross relayed a story about how one supporter with choice seats over the Boston dugout never seemed to give up hope, loudly and repeatedly reminding the Sox how the New England Patriots earlier had pulled off a stunning 30-27 victory over the New Orleans Saints with five seconds left on the clock.
"This guy kept saying, 'You know what happened with the Patriots today,' literally from the fourth inning on," Ross said. "I was like, 'Well, that guy's got more hope than I do.' I threw him a ball after that inning because he was so positive. It's a good day for Boston, right?"
Indeed it was, and it was another good example of October faith being rewarded in New England. Forget Tom Brady's toss that shamed those who'd left Gillette Stadium early to beat the late-evening traffic; the Red Sox found a way to one-up the Foxboro show as midnight approached.
"It was tough. We didn't get much since last night, and tonight was going the same way," Saltalamacchia said. "We felt that sense that we were going to break out of it. We had to."
Red Sox manager John Farrell said it was "almost a tale of two different games inside one," and shame on anyone who missed the nightcap.
After becoming the first team in postseason history to be no-hit through five innings in consecutive contests, the Red Sox offered a reminder that they aren't in the business of heading home quite so soon.
"I've been on some teams where if you take the wind out of the sail, it's a wrap," Gomes said. "I think we've done a great job of doing that to teams, you know? It's not 2013 Sox baseball by any means."