The Boston Red Sox are headed back to the October Classic.
For the second time in this ALCS, the Red Sox hit a late grand slam off the Detroit Tigers bullpen to win in thrilling fashion. On Saturday, it was Shane Victorino providing the heroics with a blast in the bottom of the seventh inning, propelling Boston to a series-clinching 5-2 win.
Starting pitchers Max Scherzer and Clay Buchholz cruised through the first four innings, but the Sox broke the dry spell in the bottom of the fifth.
After third baseman Xander Bogaerts hit a two-out double off the Green Monster, lead-off man Jacoby Ellsbury stepped to the plate and ripped an RBI single down the right-field line. Torii Hunter came up throwing, but Bogaerts slid home just in front of the throw.
The Tigers didn't take long to respond.
Hunter drew a walk and Miguel Cabrera singled to start the sixth inning, subsequently ending Buchholz' night. Franklin Morales came on to clean up the mess, but he walked Prince Fielder and gave up a two-run single to Victor Martinez, giving the Tigers a 2-1 lead.
Both runs were charged to Buchholz, who finished with a line of five innings, four hits, two walks, two earned runs and four strikeouts.
In the bottom of the seventh, the Sox got two on base against Scherzer, and an error by shortstop Jose Iglesias subsequently loaded the bases. With the table set for Victorino, the Flyin' Hawaiian entrenched himself in Red Sox lore with the huge game-winning homer.
Craig Breslow and Koji Uehara closed things out with two scoreless innings, setting up a matchup on baseball's biggest stage with the St. Louis Cardinals.
Jim Leyland had this to say after the game about the Tigers' loss (via MLB):
Max Scherzer, Tigers: C+
Scherzer was nowhere near as dominant as he was in his last start. Most notably, he struggled with his control, giving up five walks, hitting Victorino, and not being able to get out of the seventh inning.
In the end, he gave up three runs (two earned), four hits and five walks in 6.1 innings. He struck out eight.
The 21-game winner was able to get out of a crucial sixth-inning jam with a strikeout of Mike Napoli and a pop up from Jarrod Saltalamacchia, but the seventh inning was a different story.
Scherzer didn't give up the big hit, but he allowed two runners to reach base, setting up Victorino's game-winning bomb.
Clay Buchholz, Red Sox: B
For the second-straight start, Buchholz fell apart in the sixth inning on his third time through the lineup.
You have to give him credit for holding the powerful Tigers scoreless through the first five innings, though. Franklin Morales, who allowed both of his inherited runners to score in the sixth, certainly didn't help his final line, but Buchholz clearly wasn't at his best.
Nevertheless, not being at his best was still good enough for his team on this night.
Xander Bogaerts, Red Sox: A
Shane Victorino is the obvious choice for an "A+", but a less-obvious selection deserves some credit too.
For the third game in a row, Bogaerts hit a double and scored at least one run, but this time around, he also drew two walks, including a crucial one that drove Scherzer out of the game.
Victorinio will be remembered for the grand slam, but Bogaerts deserves praise as well. Without him, the complexion of the game could have been entirely different.