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Red Sox 6, Tigers 5: Red Sox knot series with incredible turnaround, walkoff win

The Red Sox rallied back from the brink of disaster, with one big swing of the bat from David Ortiz completely changing the complexion of the ALCS.

Jim Rogash

The 2013 ALCS is tied at one game a piece after Jarrod Saltalamacchia brought Jonny Gomes home with a walkoff single, lifting the Red Sox over the Tigers 6-5.

The real story, though, is David Ortiz, who has added an incredible new chapter to a long history of playoff excellence.

Before we talk about Ortiz, though, let's set the stage: the Red Sox had been no-hit for nearly nine innings Saturday night before Daniel Nava finally pushed a bloop into the outfield. They fell 1-0 after a tour-de-force of pitching or, if you want to look at it another way, a spectacular failure of hitting. And on Sunday, it was more of the same. For five innings, Max Scherzer had his way with the Red Sox lineup, piling up strikeouts one after the other. It's hard to describe the effect of watching the team that had been so powerful in the regular season look completely helpless for 14 straight innings. How deflating it is to have Game 2 start just as poorly as Game 1.

Check that--it started worse. Because unlike Saturday, when Jon Lester was almost untouchable, Clay Buchholz gave up runs. It was just one early, on with Alex Avila scoring Victor Martinez on a ground ball single, but Buchholz started missing up, and in the sixth he paid for it, with homers from Miguel Cabrera and Alex Avila bookending a four-run attack that left Detroit ahead 5-0.

It seemed hopelessly insurmountable. Hell, 1-0 seemed almost impossible, 2-0 like game over. 5-0? At that point, many were just watching to see if the Red Sox would get a hit.

They did. It came in the bottom half of the inning, as Shane Victorino flared a single to left. And then they got another, this time in the form of a wall ball double from Dustin Pedroia. The Red Sox even got on the board for the first time in the series, leaving them down 5-1. But a strikeout of David Ortiz, and a 1-2-3 seventh with two more whiffs seemed to have the game back to normal.

And that's how we get to the eighth inning. Max Scherzer left the game, Jose Veras entered, and with one down, Will Middlebrooks doubled to left. Jim Leyland went to lefty Drew Smyly to take care of Jacoby Ellsbury, but six pitches later the speedy center fielder was on first with a walk, and Al Aburquerque was into the game to face Shane Victorino. That move, at least, produced a strikeout, but also a single, with Dustin Pedroia finding the hole between first and second to load the bases, thanks to an astute hold by Brian Butterfield at third.

Up came David Ortiz, with Detroit closer Joaquin Benoit coming in to shut down the rally. It had been a terrible couple of days for Boston's most dependable postseason hitter, made to look foolish first by Anibal Sanchez, then by Max Scherzer. He was riding an 0-for-6 in the ALCS with four strikeouts--admittedly, hardly unusual for a Red Sox player to that point, but with some of the ugliest swings of the series.

Benoit's first pitch was a changeup, maybe not quite as low as he'd have wanted it, but certainly outside. It wasn't really a mistake. But David Ortiz made it one. With one swing of the bat--the swing Red Sox fans had been begging for since early in Game 1--Ortiz completely changed the series. Torii Hunter raced back, to the wall, leaped, and toppled into the pen, following the Grand Slam ball that had just tied the game at five.

With the game now tied, Koji Uehara came in to keep the walkoff in line for the bottom of the ninth, and looked as good as ever, earning three quick outs. And, having waited around for so long just to get into the game, the Red Sox wasted no time stepping on the gas again in the ninth. With Rick Porcello now in the game, Jonny Gomes hit a ground ball to the left side, far enough away from Jose Iglesias that the defensive dynamo had to take a circuitous route, rounding behind the ball and making a desperation throw to first that succeeded only in putting Gomes on second with an error. A passed ball allowed him to move to third, still with no outs, and Jarrod Saltalamacchia slapped a 3-1 pitch past a diving Jose Iglesias, emptying Boston's bullpen, and turning what seemed like a certain 2-0 deficit into a 1-1 tie.

The Red Sox are not dead yet. Far from it. Instead, they're headed to Detroit with a chance to jump ahead.

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