The Boston Red Sox were two outs from getting no-hit in Game 1, which would have been the first-ever no-hitter in a league championship series. Then the team couldn’t muster a hit for the first 5 2/3 innings in Game 2 and found itself down 5-1 with two outs in the eighth inning.
Being down 0-2 to the Tigers would have been crippling for the Red Sox with the series shifting back to Detroit and Justin Verlander -- fresh off his ALDS Game 5 gem -- taking the hill.
But the Red Sox somehow found a way to earn a come-from-behind victory in Game 2.
The rally in the eighth started with a Will Middlebrooks double. John Farrell had been on the fence about whether his young third baseman would get the start in Game 2, but obviously the decision to play him worked out.
Jacoby Ellsbury followed with a walk, and then Dustin Pedroia singled to right. Red Sox third base coach Brian Butterfield held Middlebrooks at third with two outs. That run really would not have made a difference, and with David Ortiz stepping to the plate, Butterfield could not risk running into an out.
The Tigers countered with Joaquin Benoit, who actually has not been too effective coming out of the bullpen this postseason.
So let’s put this in perspective. Normally in the postseason, it’s the unsung heroes who help guide a team to victory. Sure, the star players are expected to step up and sometimes they do, but usually whatever team gets the timely contributions from its role players will be in better shape.
However, Big Papi could care less about that theory.
There’s another theory that usually the first pitch from a reliever coming out of the bullpen is the best pitch to hit. Still, though, there’s also a theory that you have to let a reliever at least throw one pitch, especially in a bases-loaded, two-out, pressure-packed situation.
Ortiz obviously subscribes to the first of those two theories. He launched Benoit’s first pitch, a changeup, just over the outstretched glove of a leaping Torii Hunter for a game-tying grand slam. Now that is clutch.
That bomb set the stage from Jarrod Saltalamacchia -- one of the team’s role players -- to get the game-winning hit the following inning.
It’s amazing how one swing can change the entire momentum of a series. Imagine being on the Tigers and seeing your team up 5-1 with two outs in the eighth. Just get that final out, and you’d be three outs away from going up 2-0 in the series, heading back home and having your ace on the hill.
Boston’s offense had been anemic for basically all but two innings through the first two games, but all of a sudden, the team is back believing in itself that no deficit to is too big to overcome.
It’s a scary thought when a team earns that sort of passionate victory. It almost doesn’t matter that Verlander is starting Tuesday. All that matters is that the Red Sox have come out of nowhere before to get a win, which proves they can do it again.
When the members of a team believe that, it’s difficult to stop them.
So we’re tied 1-1 after two with the series shifting back to Detroit. My prediction of a seven-game series -- with Boston advancing to the World Series -- is still looking pretty good.
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