EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

October 20, 2013

Yes! The Red Sox are headed to the World Series

On Pro Baseball
Christopher Smith

---- — BOSTON — Who cares that Shane Victorino was batting .095 (2 for 21) entering last night’s Game 6? Who cares David Ortiz was batting .105 (2 for 19)? Who cares that Stephen Drew was batting (.059) 1 for 17?

Who cares? After all, your 2013 Boston Red Sox — a team that won just 69 games and finished dead last in the AL East a season ago — got the job done anyway because of their unmatched resilience. They are headed to the World Series to play the St. Louis Cardinals, in a rematch of 2004.

Victorino — who struck out nine times combined in the first five games of the ALCS — rocketed a dramatic grand slam into the Monster Seats here at Fenway Park yesterday on an 0-2 count with one out in the seventh inning when the Sox trailed the Tigers 2-1.

Boston went on to win 5-2 over mighty Detroit and its premier starting pitching staff to take the best-of-seven American League Championship Series, 4-2.

"He's come up big a number of times this season, tonight no bigger," Red Sox manager John Farrell said about Victorino.

The World Series — yes, the World Series — will start in Boston on Wednesday.

How can you not love this hairy bunch of Red Sox players who didn’t swing the bats well in this series but came up with the clutch hits and the clutch defensive plays when needed most?

Ortiz struggled throughout the series, as most did, but his dramatic grand slam tied Game 2 in the eighth inning when Boston was on the verge of falling in a 2-0 series hole that likely would have been insurmountable.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia didn’t get much going with the bat either. But he had the game-winning walkoff RBI single in Game 2.

As for Drew, it seemed like he swung and missed at every pitch thrown at him this series. But he saved a run with a remarkable play last night on a ball hit up the middle by Miguel Cabrera in the seventh. The Red Sox’ deficit remained at 2-1 and then Victorino delivered the series’ final blow to the Tigers in the bottom of the inning.

The Red Sox didn’t hit well, but they were still able to beat this year’s AL Cy Young favorite Max Scherzer twice while also earning victories over 2011 AL Cy Young and MVP Justin Verlander and Anibal Sanchez, who led the league in ERA in 2013.

"The difference really, when you look at the series, is they hit a couple of big bombs and we didn't quite do that," Detroit manager Jim Leyland said. "They hit a couple of timely, two or three really timely home runs." Big Papi — and tonight Victorino."

Last night, the two big hits came from Victorino and Jacoby Ellsbury.

Ellsbury stroked a two-out RBI single to right field in the fifth inning off Scherzer and his nasty changeup.

“That approach they have, they know how to play the game,” Red Sox hitting coach Victor Rodriguez said about Ellsbury and Victorino. “They know the game and what it takes to get that run across the plate.”

Detroit’s starters dominated throughout the six games, no-hitting the Red Sox for multiple innings at a time. But in the end, Boston — which had the top run-producing offense in the majors during the regular season — was able to grind, claw and stroke the clutch hits it needed to win.

“Our approach has always been to stay aggressive,” Rodriguez said. “But if we don’t get the pitch, we grind an at-bat. We’re not going to be an easy out.”

Yes, the 2013 Boston Red Sox haven’t been an easy out since Opening Day. It’s an incredible story since many predicted them to improve from last year but only to compete for a postseason spot.

Kudos to GM Ben Cherington for putting together a roster that never said die. Farrell said before yesterday’s game that he and Cherington shared the same vision for building a team years ago when Farrell was in Cleveland.

“He was the farm director here, and we had a chance at that point in time to begin to get an understanding of what was important in those roles: Keeping the player first and foremost, what their well‑being was, how they respected the game, how they respected the name on the front of the jersey more than the name on the back,” Farrell said. “So all those are ingredients into the type of player that we were attracted to and the reputations that those individuals had.

“The type of people that are here,” Farrell added. “We feel like this has got a chance to continue on. And again it goes back to targeting the right people that can play here in Boston.”

Follow Christopher Smith on Twitter @SmittyOnMLB