Almost two complete games, 16 innings, one run, three hits, 30 strikeouts and staring an 0-2 series deficit square in the eye – that was what the Red Sox were facing going into the bottom of the eighth inning in Sunday night’s Game 2.
It was then, with two outs, the bases loaded and trailing 5-1 where the regular season identity and character of the Sox came into focus as David Ortiz crushed a first-pitch change-up into the home bullpen, tying the game at five and sending the Fenway faithful into a frenzy. That frenzy continued into the bottom half of the ninth when Jarrod Saltalamacchia sent the series back to Detroit even at one with a walk-off single for a 6-5 Sox triumph.
“Complete change in momentum, that’s exactly what it is,” third baseman Will Middlebrooks said. “That shows what this team is made out of and it all goes to these veterans who push us to be great everyday.”
The team that led the major leagues in runs during the regular season was being completely shutdown by a dominant Tigers pitching staff. Any team recording one hit and striking out 27 times with two outs in the sixth inning and the possibility of losing the first two games at home would likely be rattled, but not these Red Sox.
“I mean, (Shane Victorino’s) hit in the sixth, I think we were like ‘here we go,’” said left fielder Jonny Gomes. “I mean we’re down five and we have one hit and we’re pumped. Like I said you just need a little bit of kindling to start a big fire and we got a little kindling and started that fire and then we threw some logs on it.”
For a team that overcame the loss of two closers, losing their best pitcher for three months and recording 36 come-from-behind wins in the regular season, they weren’t going to just mail it in.
“I mean, the way this team is built there is no doubt in our minds that we were going to win it, you know?” Gomes said. “I mean that is just the character and identity that we built in the regular season.”
With the series transitioning to Detroit, the Red Sox will now go up against arguably one of the best pitchers in the game at the moment in Justin Verlander for Game 3 (Tuesday, 4:37 p.m., FOX). But even for Verlander, the fire the Red Sox created Sunday night won’t be an easy one to put out.
Follow Metro Red Sox beat writer Ryan Hannable on Twitter @Hannable84