BOSTON -- In a season that has defied logic, the exclamation point came out out of nowhere.
Shane Victorino carried an October slump into the batter's box in the seventh inning of Game 6 in the American League Championship Series on Saturday night. Victorino had two hits in his previous 23 at-bats as he dug in with the bases loaded the Red Sox trailing the Tigers by a run.
Victorino took a strike from Jose Veras before fouling a pitch off. The next pitch was sent high into the night, landing in the Monster seats above the left field wall.
Victorino pumped his fist in the air as he rounded the bases, and the Red Sox celebrated at home plate. The grand slam propelled the Red Sox to a 5-2 victory, sending them the World Series for the first time since 2007 and the third time in 10 seasons.
The Red Sox will face the Cardinals in the World Series, with Game 1 Wednesday night at Fenway Park. Boston and St. Louis have been World Series foes in 2004, 1967 and 1946.
A year ago, the notion that the Red Sox would be playing for a title in 2013 was laughable. The Red Sox finished in last place in 2012, a season punctuated by a roster purge and the firing of first-year manager Bobby Valentine.
But the revamped Red Sox won the American League East title and have continued their march through the postseason. They were up 3-2 in the series against the Tigers as it shifted back to Boston, but Detroit had Cy Young Award favorite Max Scherzer starting Saturday and 2011 Cy Young winner Justin Verlander looming for a potential Game 7 start Sunday.
Scherzer was stifling Boston as the game moving into the late innings. The Tigers took a 2-1 lead as they chased Red Sox starter Clay Buchholz in the sixth and Boston squandered an opportunity in the bottom of the inning, as Scherzer retired Mike Napoli and Jarrod Saltalamacchia with two runners in scoring position.
But the tide turned in the seventh. Jonny Gomes led off with a double before Stephen Drew -- who made a run-saving diving play at shortstop in the top of the inning -- struck out. Rookie Xander Bogaerts, 21, fell behind 1-and-2 before working a walk.
Bogaerts also had a double and scored Boston's first run on a single by Jacoby Ellsbury in the fifth. He walked twice in the game and saw 18 pitches in three plate appearances.
Ellsbury then hit a grounder up the middle that Detroit's dynamic rookie shortstop, Jose Iglesias, misplayed for an error. Iglesias, traded by the Red Sox during the season, has been sure-handed all season.
With the bases loaded, Victorino was facing Veras. Victorino had grounded out, bunted into an out and was hit by a pitch before the seventh inning. He fell into an 0-and-2 hole before igniting the Fenway Park crowd with his second career postseason grand slam.
He joined Jim Thome as the only players in baseball history with multiple postseason grand slams. Victorino's other came for the Phillies in the 2008 NLDS.
The Red Sox got scoreless relief from Brandon Workman, Junichi Tazawa, Craig Breslow and closer Koji Uehara to complete the victory.
In his Game 2 start at Fenway Park, Scherzer carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning and allowed one run in seven innings. He struck out 13 in seven innings, leaving with a 5-1 lead that eventually became a 6-5 Red Sox victory.
"He was so locked in ... that he threw so many fastballs on the edge, he didn't miss in the middle of the plate, and if he did, we didn't square him up," Red Sox manager John Farrell said before Saturday's game. "So the fact is there's a recent outing against him, some familiarity, even though he dominated us in the seven innings he was in there. I know one thing -- come that first pitch, our guys are going to be ready, it's just a matter of how consistent his stuff is. We know we're going to get powerful stuff thrown at us."
His stuff was good, but not as dominating as his previous outing. The Red Sox put two runners on base in the first, when Dustin Pedroia singled and David Ortiz walked. Scherzer escaped with a 21-pitch inning, a good start for a lineup that attempts to escalate pitch counts.
But Scherzer struck out the side on 13 pitches in the second before Bogaerts worked a seven-pitch at-bat for a walk to lead off the third. Bogaerts moved to scoring position when Ellsbury walked, but Scherzer caught Victorino's bunt attempt as a popup for the first out.
Pedroia nearly made it 3-0 when he lofted a fly just to the left of the left field pole on the first pitch. The umpires convened before a video screen and confirmed the on-field call, putting Pedroia back in the box.
Four pitches later, Pedroia grounded to Miguel Cabrera, who stepped on third and threw to first for a rally-killing double play. Scherzer pumped his fist and bounced off the field.
But Buchholz was matching the Tigers' ace and finding his groove. He allowed a leadoff infield single to Torii Hunter in a 22-pitch first and yielded a two-out single to Omar Infante in an 18-pitch second.
The innings got more efficient, though. Buchholz got through the third with 10 pitches and set the side down in order with 11 pitches in the fourth. His run of seven in a row ended with a one-out walk by Austin Jackson in the fifth, but Jose Iglesias grounded into a 4-6-3 double play to end the inning.
Buchholz (61 pitches) and Scherzer (63) were nearly identical through four scoreless innings. But the Red Sox struck first, when Bogaerts drilled a double off the left-center field wall with two out in the fifth. Ellsbury lined the first pitch to right for an RBI single and the Red Sox led 1-0.
The Tigers minimized the damage, though, when Ellsbury was thrown out at second on a stolen base attempt.
And just as the Red Sox got the lead, Buchholz wilted. He walked Hunter to lead off the sixth and allowed a single to Cabrera, who had struck out in his two previous at-bats.
Franklin Morales replaced Buchholz and proceeded to walk Prince Fielder on four pitches. Fielder was 4-for-21 before the at-bat.
Next up, Victor Martinez sent a 2-and-1 pitch off The Wall to give the Tigers a 2-1 lead. Morales was lifted, walking off the mound to a chorus of boos.
With runners on first and third, Workman got Jhonny Peralta to hit a grounder to second. Pedroia alertly tagged Martinez and threw home. Fielder was caught midway between third and home, eventually tagged by catcher Saltalamacchia as he attempted to dive back to third.
Peralta wound up second, but pinch runner Don Kelly was stranded when Workman struck out Alex Avila to end the inning.
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