End of the seventh, Red Sox 5, Tigers 2: And suddenly, David Ortiz's grand slam in Game 2 has some competition as the biggest hit of this series.
Shane Victorino hit an 0-2 curveball from reliever Jose Veras into the Monster seats for a grand slam, a thrilling turn of events that gave the Red Sox a three-run lead and put them six outs from the World Series.
Victorino connected with the third straight curveball Veras threw him, then pumped his arm twice and pounded his chest as he rounded first base.
The rally started when Jonny Gomes double high off the Monster. Stephen Drew struck out, but Xander Bogaerts, again showing patience beyond his 21 years, worked a six-pitch walk off Max Scherzer.
The Tigers starter, who was victimized by his bullpen in Game 2, gave way to Drew Smyly. He got Jacoby Ellsbury to hit a grounder up the middle, but Jose Iglesias, the defensive wizard, bobbled the ball and every runner was safe.
That set the stage for Victorino, who hit a home run that won't soon be forgotten.
Iglesias's error was juxtaposed against a terrific play by Drew in the top of the inning.
With two on and two out, Miguel Cabrera hit a rocket up the middle off his personal nemesis in this series, Junichi Tazawa, who had just come in to face him.
But Drew dove to stop the apparent single, got up, and threw out the plodding Cabrera in plenty of time.
Tazawa came in to face Cabrera after a Jose Iglesias single and an error by Brandon Workman on a Torii Hunter bunt put the two runners on. Workman picked off Austin Jackson earlier in the inning.
End of the sixth, Tigers 2, Red Sox 1: After giving up the lead in top of the sixth, the Red Sox miss out on a chance to grab it back in the bottom of the inning.
Shane Victorino (hit by pitch, naturally) and Dustin Pedroia (walk) put the Red Sox in a two-on, nobody-out situation. But Don Kelly, inserted for defense at the start of the inning, made a nice catch of a David Ortiz liner to left.
Then Scherzer showed the form that makes him the Cy Young favorite, striking out Mike Napoli on a low changeup before getting Jarrod Saltalamacchia to pop up to Jose Iglesias at shortstop.
The top of the sixth was not good for the Red Sox, particularly Franklin Morales. But it could have been worse.
The Tigers took the lead on Victor Martinez's bases-loaded single off the wall. The former Red Sox catcher/DH found himself in a situation to put the Tigers ahead after some curious maneuverings by Red Sox manager John Farrell.
Clay Buchholz, who breezed through five innings, walked the first batter, Torii Hunter on six pitches. Miguel Cabrera followed with a hard single, and Farrell had seen enough. Whether it was because he thought Buchholz was running out of steam or that he simply liked the matchup, he called upon lefty Morales to face the struggling Prince Fielder.
Four balls later, Fielder was on first base. Four pitches after that, Martinez was standing on second and the Tigers had the lead.
Now about the could-have-been-worse part ...
Farrell got Morales out of there quicker than he brought him in, and it proved the right move. Workman got Jhonny Peralta to hit into a goofy 4-2 double play in which Dustin Pedroia fielded a grounder, tagged Martinez, then threw home to corner Fielder, who scrambled back toward third, belly-flopped, and couldn't avoid the tag of catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia.
Workman whiffed Avila to end the inning and limit the damage to two runs.
End of the fifth, Red Sox 1, Tigers 0: So Xander Bogaerts never comes out of the lineup again. We all agree on that, right? Good.
The Red Sox' 21-year-old phenom, making his second start of the series, crushed a Max Scherzer fastball to deep left center field. The ball would have been gone in most ballparks, but Bogaerts's drive ricocheted off the wall and he glided into second with a double.
He came around to score on the next pitch when Jacoby Ellsbury ripped a changeup to right field for a two-out single. Torii Hunter charged the ball and came up throwing, but Bogaerts slid home before the ball reached the plate.
Ellsbury was caught stealing to end the inning.
Clay Buchholz pitched four shutout innings in Game 2 before the wheels came off in a five-run fifth.
So consider tonight a major improvement.
Buchholz rolled through his half of the inning tonight, with Dustin Pedroia turning a 4-3 double play on a Jose Iglesias grounder to end it. That came after a one-out walk to Austin Jackson.
Through five innings, Buchholz has allowed three hits and a walk while striking out four.
End of the fourth, Red Sox 0, Tigers 0: It wasn't exactly bold to predict a pitching duel in this one. Clay Buchholz was among the best pitchers in the AL this year when healthy. Max Scherzer was probably the best pitcher in the AL over a the full season, and he'll have the award to prove it.
But through four innings, this one is living up to such an expectation. Scherzer mowed the Sox down on nine pitches in his half of the inning, getting David Ortiz to pop to second on the first pitch he saw, then striking out Mike Napoli and Jarrod Saltalamacchia.
Buchholz cruises through his first 1-2-3 inning, requiring 11 pitches to retire Victor Martinez (liner to a leaping Stephen Drew at short), Jhonny Peralta (grounder to Drew), and Alex Avila (grounder to Bogaerts).
Avila, who has taken a pounding in this series, including a foul ball off his chest protector earlier in this game, could barely run to first.
Buchholz battled back from a 3-0 count to retire Martinez leading off the inning.
End of the third, Red Sox 0, Tigers 0: How close? Thisclose. If not closer.
Dustin Pedroia was a foot -- maybe six inches -- from giving the Red Sox a three-run lead. But his crushed deep drive to left field detoured slightly to the left of the foul pole, and a potential game-altering homer was nothing but very long strike.
The drive was reminiscent of Carlton Fisk's legendary home run in Game 6 of the 1975 World Series, with two differences -- Pedroia hop and wave and try to will it fair, Fisk-style, and the ball refused to collide with the pole.
After a brief discussion with John Farrell, the umpires gathered for a review. A few minutes later, Joe West emerged from the dugout with the confirmation of bad news: it was foul.
Three pitches later, Pedroia hit into a 5-4-3 double play, allowing Scherzer to escape following walks to Xander Bogaerts (who worked his way back from an 0-2 count) and Jacoby Ellsbury.
Jose Iglesias leads off with a single to right, and don't you get the sense he really wants to get revenge on the Red Sox for trading him?
Anyway, Buchholz leaves him stranded, with cooperation from the top of the Tigers' order. Torii Hunter flies to left on the first pitch of the at-bat. Buchholz gets Miguel Cabrera to strike out on an 87 mph cutter. Then Prince Fielder grounds to first.
End of the second, Red Sox 0, Tigers 0: Scherzer's stuff is as filthy as usual. He strikes out the side on 13 pitches, getting Jarrod Saltalamacchia swinging on a 94 mph fastball, Jonny Gomes swinging on an 86 mph slider (a three-pitch at-bat), and then Stephen Drew -- yes, swinging -- on a 96 mph fastball.
Buchholz required 18 pitches to get through his half of the second, but there was no damage done. He picked up his third strikeout when he got Alex Avila on a nasty 81 mph changeup. Avila hit a pivotal home run off Buchholz in Game 2.
Omar Infante followed Avila's whiff with a two-out single, but Austin Jackson grounded back to Buchholz to end the frame.
End of the first, Red Sox 0, Tigers 0: The Red Sox didn't manage a hit of Max Scherzer in Game 2 through six innings.
They ended his no-hit bid before it could get started tonight, with Dustin Pedroia lining a two-out single. But they couldn't turn it into runs.
David Ortiz followed with a walk, but they were stranded when Mike Napoli lined a one-hopper to shortstop Jose Iglesias, who fielded it with his usual flair and thlorew Napoli out at first.
Clay Buchholz delivered a methodical but effective top half of the first inning, retiring three straight Tigers after Torii Hunter's leadoff single.
Hunter battled back from an 0-2 count to reach on an infield single to deep short.
But Buchholz struck out Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder consecutively, and Victor Martinez's six-pitch at-bat ended with a soft fly ball to center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury.
Buchholz needed 22 pitches and 19 minutes to get through the half-inning.
Pregame: Win tonight, and the Red Sox are the American League champions, bound for a World Series showdown (and 2004 rematch) with the St. Louis Cardinals.
Lose, and they have to deal with Justin Verlander in Game 7.
In other words, the Red Sox would be well-served -- and like nothing better -- than to wrap up the ALCS tonight behind starter Clay Buchholz, who may have been the top pitcher in the AL this year when healthy.
But it's not simple task: The Tigers counter with 21-game winner Max Scherzer, who will probably be recognized as the top pitcher in the league when the AL Cy Young Award voting is announced.
Buchholz pitched four shutout innings in Game 2, but left after a five-run fifth. Scherzer departed after seven innings, having limited the Red Sox to one run. You'll recall that the Tigers' four-run advantage was erased with one mighty David Ortiz swing.
Red Sox manager John Farrell said his expectation is that Buchholz will pitch deep into the game. But he also acknowledged that he will continue to be aggressive in using Junichi Tazawa, Craig Breslow, and Koji Uehara out of the 'pen.
"We have been more aggressive going to the bullpen in key spots,'' said Farrell. "Unfortunately, the reason being, that we've got three guys down there, and really more than three. But there's probably five guys that can go one‑plus innings, and Koji is available for that tonight. So I don't want to go into tonight playing for tomorrow, either."
Farrell is going with Jonny Gomes over Daniel Nava in left field, despite Nava's outstanding numbers (.894 OPS) against righthanded pitching this season.
"I think at this point in time gut comes into it a little bit more than numbers will tell you on a stat sheet or a given category," Farrell said.
The Dropkick Murphys sang the National Anthem and "Shipping Up To Boston." Bill Mueller threw out the first pitch. And we're ready to go.