Tigers - 010 004 000 - 5 8 1 Red Sox - 000 001 041 - 6 7 1The Red Sox were dead.
They were five outs away from an ignominious repeat of Game 1. No hits through 5.2 innings, and Max Scherzer (7-2-1-2-13, 108) racking up strikeout after strikeout, as though he and Game 1 starter Anibal Sanchez had some secret bet about how many sliders the Boston hitters could wave helplessly at. Through the first four innings, and 14 batters, the Red Sox put the ball in play only three times.
Boston broke through for a run in the sixth - Shane Victorino singled to ruin the no-hit bid and Dustin Pedroia doubled him in - but with one out in the bottom of the eighth, they trailed 5-1.
Five outs to go. In a matter of minutes, they would be down 0-2, with Justin Verlander on the hill Tuesday afternoon in Game 3, and fans desperately conjuring the spirits of the 2004 and 2007 ALCS.
Then Will Middlebrooks, facing Jose Veras, doubled to left field. Drew Smyly came in from the bullpen; Jacoby Ellsbury's disciplined at-bat resulted in a full-count walk. Tigers manager Jim Leyland made another change, bringing in Al Alburquerque. Victorino struck out for the inning's second out, but Pedroia lined a hard single to right field. Middlebrooks was held at third and the bases were loaded - with David Ortiz coming up as the potential tying run.
Leyland made yet another trip to the mound, and called on closer Joaquin Benoit, his fourth pitcher of the inning. Everyone at Fenway was standing and pleading for Ortiz to add to his long list of October heroics. Benoit's first pitch was a 86-mph changeup, out over the plate, maybe a bit outside. Ortiz hit a screaming line drive into the Red Sox bullpen. Torii Hunter gave chase, leapt in vain, and ended up tumbling over the short fence into the 'pen. Fenway Park exploded. The game was tied! On the radio broadcast, Dave O'Brien was reduced to simply yelling "David Ortiz! David Ortiz!" over and over and over again, sounding absolutely sure he must be hallucinating.
As the celebration in the stands continued, pinch-hitter Mike Napoli struck out, and Koji Uehara retired the Tigers on nine pitches in the top of the ninth - and the Red Sox were batting once again. Was there any real doubt Boston would win this game, and quickly? (In the game thread, I pegged their chances at 103%.)
Rick Porcello was the Tiger reliever handed the task of holding back a tsunami of momentum. He did about as well as you might expect. Jonny Gomes grounded a ball to the left side, beyond Miguel Cabrera's limited range. Shortstop Jose Iglesias went far to his right to get the ball, and his throw to first was slightly off the mark. Prince Fielder couldn't block the low throw and the ball skipped to the Red Sox dugout. Gomes was on second base.
Porcello fell behind Jarrod Saltalamacchia 2-0, before Salty lifted a foul pop over by the first base stands. Fielder went over, reached slightly into the stands, and the ball glanced off his glove. No interference was called, despite Leyland's brief protestations - and Salty had life. Porcello's next pitch was wild (!) and Gomes raced to third. Saltalamacchia smacked Porcello's 3-1 offering into left field for a single and Gomes sprinted home with the game-winning and, more importantly, series-tying run!
What had seemed all but impossible a handful of minutes before was now a glorious reality.
Ellsbury, CFDoug Miller, (MLB.com):
One Boston player after another was asked for explanations [for their Game 1 performance]. It didn't seem to make sense that a team with such a high-octane offense would sputter in such extreme fashion at home. They were asked if it was Sanchez's deception. They were asked if some of West's close calls took their concentration away just a little bit. They were asked if they felt the pressure of the moment.
They chalked it up to a combination of Sanchez and the Tigers' bullpen, and the strange but wonderful game of baseball that sometimes gives and sometimes takes away. ...
So while it might have been quiet, the prevailing mood in the clubhouse was one of a team ready to forget about it and show up for Game 2.