'Flyin' Hawaiian' flies around bases after historic slam
Emotional Red Sox right fielder ties postseason record with clutch Game 6 clout
BOSTON -- He watched it fly while he jogged out of the batter's box. He began jumping up and down before he reached the bag. He had barely rounded first when it flew over the top of the Green Monster, a comfortable couple of rows in.
And that's when Shane Victorino began to let it all out.
With his team trailing by a run in the seventh inning of Game 6 of the American League Championship Series, he hit a grand slam on an 0-2 curveball to in essence deliver a pennant a few innings early.
Unable to get a bunt down in a key situation in the third inning, he felt vindicated. Then he realized how huge it was, with the crowd in utter pandemonium and his teammates jumping up and down in front of the dugout.
So he began to scream and pump his fists. He pounded his chest twice, right by his heart, as he circled the bases on the way to home plate.
"The first thought was, 'Get enough air to tie the game,'" Victorino said. "And then I thought this could get up over the wall. All the emotions went through my mind."
They went through the Tigers' minds, too.
"Your heart just drops," Tigers outfielder Torii Hunter said. "It's like a popup, and that ball just barely gets over the Monster. Most stadiums, that's probably an out. But here, it's a homer. And he got the job done. He came through when they needed him and got the big hit and that was the crushing blow."
Grand slams hit in the deciding game of a postseason series
"It was a special moment," Victorino added. "It's been a special year, we battled and good moments like this, you cherish it."
Victorino's slam was monumental for several reasons, and one was historic. It was the second of his postseason career, following his grand slam in Game 2 of the 2008 AL Division Series against the Brewers, and with it, Victorino joined Jim Thome as the only two players with at least two postseason grand slams.
Even the great Pat "Mr. Clutch" Tabler, who leads all Major League hitters in batting average with the bases loaded (.489) over the last 40 years, only had two homers with the sacks juiced in 188 at-bats in his career.
Overall, Victorino is 4-for-6 with two homers and 16 RBIs with the bases loaded in the postseason.
Another significant development displayed by Victorino's grand slam was the fact that it came while batting right-handed against a right-handed pitcher. Victorino, a switch-hitter for most of his Major League career, began batting from the right side only earlier in the regular season because of hamstring and back injuries, but switched back to lefty for a few at-bats against Detroit right-hander Anibal Sanchez in Game 5.
One swift swing might have erased any uncertainty moving forward into the Fall Classic.
"I'm confident to say that I'm going to continue to work from the right side on the rest of this year," Victorino said. "For this year it's pretty much a done deal."
There were plenty of skeptics around baseball after the Red Sox signed Victorino. He was coming off a down year with the Phillies, he had turned 32 in November, and the Red Sox didn't hesitate to give him three years and $39 million.
But Victorino had won a World Series ring as a catalyst for the 2008 Phillies, and the Red Sox were looking for veteran players who knew how to win.
And on Saturday in the seventh inning, Victorino's hit gave them their biggest victory of the year.
"He's come up big a number of times this season, " Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "Tonight, no bigger."
Red Sox reliever Brandon Workman said he watched the home run from the clubhouse and yelled at the TV.
His relief corps mate, Craig Breslow, watched from the bullpen and let out a scream of his own.
Starter Clay Buchholz said he just couldn't say anything.
"I was pretty much speechless," Buchholz said. "I had to run outside. Vic's been one of the best additions I think this club's ever seen, the way we have two center fielders in the outfield. It's been pretty amazing."
Now it continues, right into the World Series, where Victorino can keep inspiring his teammates with his drive and his ability to come through when it's needed the most.
"Hey, it's not the first time my back was against the wall or people doubted me," Victorino said of delivering a big hit despite having struggled earlier in the series.
"People said, 'You're a little too small, I don't know if you can ever get to the big leagues.' A scout told my mom in high school, 'He'll never be a Major League player, he'll never get there.' It's stuff that motivates me. Lucky enough, it worked out for me."