Jarrod Saltalamacchia and David Ortiz combined in the clutch to give the Red Sox an improbable, come-from-behind 6-5 victory Sunday night at Fenway Park.
Saltalamacchia’s walk-off single plated Jonny Gomes from third in the ninth inning and Ortiz added to his already sterling postseason legacy with an eighth-inning grand slam to tie the ALCS, 1-1.
Game 3 is in Detroit Tuesday (4 p.m., FOX).
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For the second straight game in the ALCS, the Tigers had a legit shot at a no-hitter through six innings. Max Scherzer was brilliant for Detroit, working seven innings, allowing just two hits and one earned run while striking out 13 Red Sox batters.
Shane Victorino finally broke up Scherzer’s no-hit bid in the sixth with a single. Dustin Pedroia immediately plated the running Victorino with a high-arcing double off the wall in the inning.
The Red Sox finally put together a multi-run inning in the eighth. Pedroia found a gap to the right of second to load the bases for Ortiz. As he has done so many times before in October, Ortiz saved the night for Boston. The slugger lined a ball right into the Red Sox bullpen, sending Tigers right fielder Torii Hunter up and over the short wall as well. Hunter and the Tigers walked away from the grand slam shaken up, as their pitching masterpiece from earlier had been all but destroyed.
Earlier in the night, Miguel Cabrera belted one into the left light tower above the Green Monster to put the Tigers up 2-0 in the sixth inning. The shot certainly rattled Clay Buchholz, who had allowed just three hits up until that point. Prince Fielder followed up Cabrera’s clout by pelting the left field wall with an opposite field double and then Victor Martinez doubled home Fielder. Alex Avila put the finishing touches on Buchholz’s sixth inning meltdown as he bashed one into the right field seats, putting Detroit up 5-0.
That portion of the Tigers lineup did damage early as well. Avila’s sharply hit ball up the middle in the second inning got the Tigers on the board as Martinez scored on the hit. Martinez had doubled into left-center field to get on base and was pushed to third on a Jhonny Peralta single to left. Had it not been for Stephen Drew beginning a 6-4-3 double play, things could have been much worse for the Sox in the early-going.
What they'll be saying: Make no mistake, the Red Sox were minutes away from being written off in this series. Had Ortiz and Saltalamacchia not come through, the Sox would have faced a situation in which they were down two games and were about to face the hottest and, arguably, best pitcher in baseball on the road on Tuesday in Justin Verlander.
But Ortiz's grand slam has changed the series entirely. Despite having just three hits in the first 16 innings of the ALCS, the Sox suddenly have all the momentum in the world. If they can nibble at Verlander Tuesday afternoon and get into the Tigers bullpen, there's no reason to believe that the Sox can't go up 2-1 in this series. Getting back-to-back playoff wins in which Scherzer and Verlander are pitching was unthinkable as recently as 10 p.m. Sunday. With a swing of the bat, Ortiz has the Sox and their fans believing all is possible again.
Follow Metro Boston sports editor Matt Burke on Twitter @BurkeMetroBOS