During David Ortiz’s 11 seasons with the Red Sox, there have been many victories collected in an improbable fashion.
What occurred Sunday night at Fenway Park instantly belongs on the short list of the most memorable.
Ortiz’s grand slam with two outs in the eighth inning tied the game at 5-5, and Jarrod Saltalamacchia won it with a single through a drawn-in infield in the bottom of the ninth, giving the Red Sox a shocking 6-5 victory over the Tigers in Game 2 of the American League Championship Series Sunday night.
The rally seemed so improbable because the Red Sox’ offense had been shut down by Tigers pitching for the second straight night. Max Scherzer took a no-hitter into the sixth inning, and he departed after seven having allowed just two hits and a run while striking out 13.
The Tigers’ bullpen was so effective in Game 1, combining with starter Anibal Sanchez for 17 strikeouts and just a single hit. But it could not duplicate the feat in relief of Scherzer.
Just as it appeared the Red Sox were on the verge of falling behind 2-0 in this series they rallied to life in the eighth.
After Stephen Drew grounded to short to open the inning against new pitcher Jose Veras, Will Middlebrooks doubled. Lefty Drew Smyly replaced Veras and walked Jacoby Ellsbury. Manager Jim Leyland turned to receiver Al Alburquerque, who struck out Shane Victorino on a 2-2 slider off the plate.
Dustin Pedroia kept the inning alive with a single to right, loading the bases for Ortiz, who hit .455 with the bases full this season
Leyland wasted no time turning to Benoit, and Ortiz wasted no time making him regret it, hammering the first pitch into the Red Sox bullpen. As if the moment wasn’t dramatic enough, Torii Hunter, the Tigers right fielder, flipped over the wall while pursuing the ball and appeared to cut the back of his head.
Mike Napoli whiffed to end the inning, but the damage was done. Koji Uehara pitched a 1-2-3 ninth, setting the stage for Saltalamacchia’s heroics.
Top of the eighth: Doubront got through his half of the inning with no harm, allowing just a walk to Infante. Six outs left for the Sox. Can they rally against Detroit’s bullpen? Jose Veras is coming on for Scherzer.
End of the seventh, Tigers 5, Red Sox 1: Looks like Scherzer’s night is done after mowing down Carp (strikeout), Gomes (strikeout) and Saltalamacchia (grounder to second) in the bottom half of the inning. He’s getting the hugs and high-fives in the dugout. If this is it for him on the night, his final line is exceptional: 7 innings, 2 hits, 2 walks, 13 strikeouts, and a single run.
The Tigers go in order in the top half. Brandon Workman retires Hunter on a grounder to first and Cabrera on a deep fly ball Ellsbury tracks down in the triangle, then Felix Doubront comes on to retire Fielder on a grounder to Pedroia.
End of the sixth, Tigers 5, Red Sox 1: Stop the presses: The Red Sox not only have a hit, but they scored a run.
Shane Victorino broke up Max Scherzer’s bid for a no-hitter with a two-out single in the bottom of the sixth, and the Red Sox scored their first run of the ALCS a batter later when Dustin Pedroia doubled him home.
But the opportunity to further cut into the Tigers’ lead ended when David Ortiz struck out on a low, inside changeup, Scherzer’s 11th strikeout of the game.
Top of the sixth, Tigers 5, Red Sox 0: When does a 5-0 deficit feel insurmountable?
When the team with zero runs still has just one hit in the series — and none on this particular night.
And when arguably the trailing team’s best starting pitcher, one who never allowed more than four runs in any start this season, is chased in a four-run sixth inning.
It all fell apart for Buchholz in the sixth, though it began harmlessly enough. Torii Hunter flew to center for the first out. But Miguel Cabrera, the best hitter in baseball when healthy, hammered a fat changeup that caromed off the light tower above the Monster for a 2-0 lead.
Prince Fielder followed with a double off the wall and came around to score on Victor Martinez’s double. After Jhonny Peralta lined to center, Avila connected for a two-run homer to bump the lead to 5-0.
Buchholz faced one more batter — Infante, who singled — before manager John Farrell summoned Brandon Workman. After a walk to Don Kelly, he brought the inning to a merciful end by retiring Austin Jackson on a grounder to third.
End of the fifth, Tigers 1, Red Sox 0: in July, it’s probably gone. Maybe even in September.
But Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s long, high drive to right field — which looked ticketed for the seats off his bat — fell a few feet short of tying the game.
The drive died in the October nighttime air, falling into Torii Hunter’s glove deep into the right field corner for the inning’s second out.
Scherzer let out an exaggerated exhale on the mound, then retired Stephen Drew on a grounder to first for the third out.
Buchholz continues to hold up his end of the bargain, needing just 10 pitches to get through the top half of the inning. Through five innings, he’s allowed three hits without a walk while striking out six.
End of the fourth, Tigers 1, Red Sox 0: Buchholz wriggles out of a jam not entirely of his own making, getting Avila to pop to center field for the third out with runners at the corners.
Buccholz should have been out of the inning a batter earlier, but Stephen Drew couldn’t handle Peralta’s routine grounder. Martinez, who was hit by a pitch and moved to second on a wild pitch, advanced to third on the play.
The inning began with Buchholz whiffing Tigers sluggers Cabrera and Fielder in succession.
Still nothing doing for the Red Sox offense in the bottom half. Ortiz worked a one-out walk in the bottom half, but was promptly erased on Mike Carp’s 4-6-3 double play.
To put it another way: The Red Sox have one hit in 13 innings in this series. And they’ve struck out 25 times, including eight tonight.
End of the third, Tigers 1, Red Sox 0: Dustin Pedroia has made enough outstanding plays at second base this season that it would be shock if he doesn’t win his third Gold Glove award.
And he may have just made his best play of the season.
With one out, Austin Jackson hit a hard grounder to Pedroia’s left. Ranging far and lunging to the ground, he snagged the ball in the edge of the webbing of his glove, twisted toward first, and with little leverage threw a strike to get the speedy Jackson by a step.
Buchholz followed Pedroia’s sensational play by striking out Hunter on a 92 mph fastball.
Any thought that Pedroia’s play might give the Red Sox some momentum — a dubious proposition in baseball as it is — was quickly put to rest by Scherzer, who struck out Stephen Drew and Will Middlebrooks to start the inning.
Jacoby Ellsbury worked a walk on a 3-2 pitch, but Scherzer mowed down Victorino on four pitches.
Scherzer has struck out seven in three innings. The Red Sox still do not have a hit.
End of the second, Tigers 1, Red Sox 0: The Tigers strike first in an inning in which their last four batters made hard contact against Buchholz, who was fortunate to escape having allowed just one run.
Prince Fielder began the inning inauspiciously, striking out swinging. But Victor Martinez followed by lining a hard double to left-center, and Jhonny Peralta moved him to third with a single to left, his fourth hit of the series.
Alex Avila, who had three hits in eight at-bats in his career against Buchholz entering the game, roped a single to center, scoring Martinez.
Buchholz escaped the inning by getting Alex Infante to hit into a 6-4-3 double play, but it was one more hard-hit ball against the Sox’ starter.
The Red Sox went quietly in their half. Mike Carp and Jonny Gomes, two new additions to the Game 2 lineup, didn’t have any answers for Scherzer in their first plate appearances of the night. Both struck out looking. Scherzer wrapped up his 17-pitch inning by getting Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who also didn’t start Game 1, to ground to second.
End of the first inning, Red Sox 0, Tigers 0: At this point, it’s almost surprising when Shane Victorino gets through a plate appearance without getting hit by a pitch.
The Red Sox’ No. 2 hitter followed Jacoby Ellsbury’s leadoff ground-out to third by becoming the first batter to reach base when he was drilled by a Scherzer fastball on the first pitch he saw.
Victorino, who was hit for the ninth time in his postseason career, was stranded at first when Dustin Pedroia struck out on three pitches and David Ortiz followed by whiffing on a 96-mph fastball after working the count to 2-2.
Clay Buchholz sailed through the top of the first inning. Austin Jackson grounded out hard to shortstop Stephen Drew. Torii Hunter followed by striking out swinging, then the hobbled but always dangerous Miguel Cabrera lined to Jacoby Ellsbury in center. All told, it took Buchholz nine pitches to record his first three outs.
Pregame: The St. Ann’s Parish Children’s Choir of Dorchester performed the national anthem before the game led by 7-year-old Jane Richard.
Jane lost her left leg in the Marathon bombing. Her brother Martin was killed and her mother Denise also was wounded. Jane, who was wearing a Dustin Pedroia jersey, received a round of applause from the Red Sox players when she finished and walked off the field.
Dave Roberts, one of the heroes of the 2004 Red Sox, threw out the first pitch. Bill Mueller, whose single scored Roberts in Game 4 of the ALCS, also was in the park. He is an advance scout for the Dodgers and has been following the Red Sox for several weeks.
* After managing just one hit in a 1-0 Game 1 loss, the Red Sox have made some adjustments to their lineup as they prepare to take on 21-game-winner Max Scherzer in Game 2.
Red Sox manager John Farrell will give first baseman Mike Carp and left fielder Jonny Gomes their first starts of the series, with Mike Napoli and Daniel Nava — who managed the lone hit Saturday, a ninth-inning single of Joaquin Benoit — beginning Game 2 on the bench.
“You know, to me it’s a matter of what the history of guys have been against an individual pitcher,” said Farrell when asked how Carp and Gomes change the look of the lineup. “We’ve tried to find ways to put guys in a position of success. Nap has had some scuffles with Scherzer in the past over time.”
Napoli has one hit in 13 career at-bats against Scherzer. Nava is 1 for 9. Carp and Gomes are a combined 4 for 15 without a home run against the Tigers starter.
“We make a couple of changes in our lineup, it’s pretty consistent with the way we’ve approached certain pitchers or a series throughout the course of the year,” said Farrell. “So in our clubhouse these changes are almost anticipated even before they happen.”
While much of the discussion entering Game 2 surrounds how the Red Sox will deal with Scherzer, it’s not as if they have a slouch on the mound themselves.
Clay Buchholz was one of the premier pitchers in the American League when healthy this season, winning 12 of 13 decisions with a 1.74 ERA.
“It seems like every time he’s walked to the mound he’s not only kept the game under control but certainly given us an opportunity to win,” Farrell said. “And the fact that he’s been so consistent, even coming out after the three‑month layoff, he still maintains the overall feel to all his secondary pitches and an uncanny ability to make key pitches in some tight spots after the long layoff. We’ll certainly need him to keep the game under control tonight. This should be a very good pitching matchup once again.”