In what has been a season full of memorable victories at Fenway Park, the Red Sox saved the best for when they needed it the most on Sunday night.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s RBI single in the bottom of the ninth inning gave the Sox a stunning 6-5 victory against the Detroit Tigers in Game 2 of the American League Championship Series.
On the verge of being down, 2-0, in the best-of-seven series, the Sox scored four runs in the eighth inning on a grand slam by David Ortiz before winning the game in the ninth.
Jonny Gomes was again the catalyst. He reached on an infield single and took second on a throwing error by shortstop Jose Iglesias. He took third on Rick Porcello’s wild pitch and scored on Saltalamacchia’s single to left.
A gang of Red Sox players chased Saltalamacchia into left field to celebrate the 12th walkoff win of the season. Koji Uehara went a perfect inning for the win.
Game 3 is in Detroit Tuesday afternoon. John Lackey will face Justin Verlander.
The Red Sox were trailing, 5-1, after seven superb innings by Detroit starter Max Scherzer. He allowed one run on two hits and struck out 13. But Scherzer left the game after 109 pitches.
Finally, the real Red Sox emerged after being held to one run over the first 16 innings of the series and striking out 30 times.
Will Middlebrooks doubled to left off Jose Veras. Then Jacoby Ellsbury walked off Drew Smyly. Al Albuquerque was next out of the Detroit bullpen.
He struck out Shane Victorino but Dustin Pedroia singled to right. Third base coach Brian Butterfield held Middlebrooks, wanting to make sure Ortiz got his chance.
Pedroia clapped his hands and shouted at Ortiz as the big designated hitter came to the plate. But Tigers manager Jim Leyland made another pitching change first, bringing in righthanded closer Joaquin Benoit.
Detroit had added lefthander Phil Coke for the series and Ortiz was 2 for 18 against him. But the choice was Benoit.
Ortiz swung at the first pitch, a changeup away, and lined it into the Sox bullpen in right field for his first postseason career grand slam and the fourth in Red Sox history.
The sellout crowd of 38,029 kept cheering until Ortiz emerged from the dugout and tipped his cap.
As he sat in his office three hours before first pitch, Red Sox manager John Farrell felt good about his team’s attitude following a 1-0 loss against the Tigers Saturday night.
Farrell took his usual stroll through the clubhouse to get a read on the players and liked what he heard.
“The conversation, the type of conversation, the interactions, what they’re talking about. That’s pretty consistent,” he said. “The same trash.”
But once the game started, it was the same swing and miss for the Red Sox as Scherzer dominated to an even greater extent than Anibal Sanchez did Saturday night.
Scherzer struck out 10 of the first 18 batters he faced. The only runners who reached base in the first five innings were Shane Victorino (hit by a pitch in the first inning), Ellsbury (walked in the third), and Ortiz (walked in the fourth).
Trailing, 5-0, the Sox finally got a hit with two outs in the sixth inning when Victorino singled to left field with one out. Pedroia followed with an RBI double off the wall in left.
With the crowd up and cheering, Ortiz struck out swinging to end the inning. But he’d deliver two innings later.