The Detroit Tigers were less than two innings from ransacking Fenway Park and fleeing Boston with two victories to start the ALCS.
But when David Ortiz connected with a Joaquin Benoit changeup, sending the ball, and Torii Hunter, over the right field wall, Fenway Park went into a tizzy. More importantly, Ortiz's eighth-inning grand slam made the ALCS a true series. An inning later, the ALCS was officially tied after sloppy defense from the Tigers infield allowed a pair of ground balls to produce a game-winning run.
Ortiz knew just how important this comeback was to the Red Sox's morale and momentum heading to Detroit for Games 3, 4 and 5, via the Associated Press:
We need it, man. We need start some momentum going on. The whole regular season, you haven't seen a team shutting us down for 14, 15 straight innings like they have the past couple of days. If you look at the way they've been pitching, (it's) unbelievable. It's up to us make an adjustment.
With Justin Verlander slated for Game 3 on Tuesday, the narratives about Boston's impotent offense, home-field advantage and momentum would have taken on a clear pro-Tigers feel on Monday morning had the tide not changed swiftly on Sunday evening.
Now, the talk will be about momentum for Boston, a demoralizing loss for Detroit and how these teams stack up in a brand-new best-of-five series.
Before writing the obituary for the 2013 Detroit Tigers, remember this old-school baseball phrase: Momentum is as good as the next day's starting pitcher.
Luckily for the Detroit Tigers, they have enough potent arms, starting with Verlander in Game 3, to keep them in this ALCS. In fact, a pair of poorly executed innings by Detroit's bullpen and defense should not erase these two facts:
1. Over Verlander's last 27 innings pitched, including his past two regular-season starts and the ALDS against Oakland, the 2011 AL MVP has posted the following numbers: 27 IP, 15 H, 6 BB, 43 SO, 0 ER.
2. Through the first 14 innings of this ALCS, mostly against Anibal Sanchez and Max Scherzer, Boston recorded a grand total of one base hit.
The second point can't be overstated or used enough in Detroit on Monday. Boston's offense wasn't just limited; the Red Sox were completely taken out of their game by power pitching. The spectacle of Sanchez working out of a sixth-inning jam in Game 1 and Scherzer blowing fastballs by helpless Red Sox hitters in Game 2 should inspire confidence in Comerica Park.
On Tuesday, the series will shift back to Detroit for three straight games before the script, barring a three-game sweep in Detroit by either club, flips back to Boston for a winner to be crowned. Over the next five games, the Red Sox would see Verlander twice and both Sanchez and Scherzer once more.
After the game, talk focused on Ortiz's home run changing momentum and altering the outlook of this series. While it's true that the outlook changes when considering a 1-1 tie as opposed to a 2-0 deficit, momentum is hard to define.
If you want to believe the Red Sox are heading to Comerica Park with momentum, you won't find an argument from me. However, if Verlander brings the kind of stuff to the hill that we've watched him dominate with since late September, it won't matter.
Heading into this series, the battle line was drawn: Detroit's starting pitching vs. Boston's league-leading offensive output. Through the majority of the first two games, Detroit's pitching owned the battle and the series. That shouldn't be forgotten now.
As good as Sanchez was in Game 1, Detroit was able to get the series back to its home park with a split in Boston despite not yet using its best or hottest pitcher. Scherzer clearly profiled as the Tigers' 2013 ace, but Sanchez was the No. 3 starter in Detroit.
Most teams can't roll out a Game 3 starter with a No. 2 starter ranking from 2013, AL MVP trophy in the closet and history of excellence in October. Using that advantage, Detroit is more than capable of staying in this series for the distance.
While Boston will feature John Lackey in Game 3, it's used its two best arms, Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz. One major inning and one legendary hit may have been good enough to wrestle a split in Boston, but it's hard to believe the anemic offensive display thus far will be good enough to win more than one game in Detroit this week.
In October, pitching wins. Right now, despite "momentum" and Ortiz's heroics, the Detroit Tigers still have the formula to compete with the American League's best regular-season team.
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