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Top moments of the decade #9: Every little thing is gonna be alright

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Victorino’s pennant-winning grand slam

ALCS - Detroit Tigers v Boston Red Sox - Game Six

It is now December in the year of our Aceves 2019, which means that everyone who is anyone is doing some sort of content creation to mark the end of the decade. It is horribly unoriginal, which I do not say derisively because I’m doing it too! It’s practically legally obligated! Anyway, I’m going to be counting down the top moments of the decade for the duration of the month. We’ll start with our honorable mentions in which I’ll put down my numbers 11-20 moments of the decade and then after that each of the top ten moments will have their own standalone post. This is all totally subjective (obviously), and it’s also specifically not the best moments. In other words, i’s not all good, though most of it is. Okay, that’s enough, right? I don’t need to explain the concept of a top moments of the decade series, right? You get it.

The 2013 season was, of course, one of the most enjoyable years ever for Red Sox fans. Well, on the field at least. The year more or less started with the horrible bombing at the Marathon, a tragic event that brought the team and the city together. Coming off the Bobby V season, this group of mismatched, buy-low free agents (plus some stars, obviously) went on an improbable run and won the American League East with 97 wins. They took on the Rays in the ALDS and won that series in four games.

That brought us to the ALCS in a phenomenal matchup against the Tigers. It’s easy to forget now, but that Tigers team was absolutely loaded. Detroit was good for a long time in this era, but this may have been their best squad. Their rotation was headed by Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander at or near their peaks. They had the best version of Doug Fister. Aníbal Sánchez had a big year. Rick Porcello was their number five. Their lineup was led by an in-his-prime Miguel Cabrera as well as Victor Martinez. Boston was slightly favored in this series, but it was more or less a toss-up. It wouldn’t go the full seven, but it was still an incredible series with an incredible ending.

The Red Sox dropped the first one at home, nearly getting no-hit by Sánchez. Daniel Nava saved the day in that respect with a base hit in the bottom of the ninth. Jon Lester was great, but it was a 1-0 loss. They came back and won Game Two in amazing fashion and, well, we’ll get to that one later in this countdown. John Lackey outdueled Verlander in a 1-0 victory in Game Three before Detroit ran away with Game Four. After the Red Sox held on for a 4-3 win in the pivotal Game Five, we reached Game Six.

It was Max Scherzer going up against a banged up Clay Buchholz in that one, giving a clear edge to Detroit. The pitching held up for the early parts of the game, with the Red Sox getting on the board first when they took a 1-0 lead in the fifth. The Tigers answered right back with a two-run sixth, and with the way Scherzer was throwing it sure looked like Game Seven was a real possibility.

Then the seventh inning came along. Down 2-1, Jonny Gomes sure came close to tying it up with one swing, smashing one high off the Monster for a leadoff double. That brought up rookie 21-year-old Xander Bogaerts, wearing number 72, who worked an at bat well beyond his years against one of the best pitchers in baseball, eventually drawing a walk to put two on with nobody out. That brought up Jacoby Ellsbury, who appeared to have hit into a potential double play. Instead, Jose Iglesias — one of the most sure-handed shortstops in the game — booted it to load the bases for Shane Victorino.

Now, Victorino was one of the faces of this 2013 team in that he was a mid-tier free agent brought in on a relatively low-money deal who exceeded expectations while contributing to the incredible clubhouse culture and becoming a fan favorite all at the same time. On paper, at least by Baseball-Reference WAR, this was the best season of his career. He finished with a 118 OPS+, received MVP votes for the third time in his career and won his fourth career Gold Glove. He also brought the Fenway crowd to their feet every at bat with “Three Little Birds” as his walk-up music.

So, it was fitting that he was the one who came up in this big spot with a chance to push this team on to the World Series. Scherzer was out of the game at this point and José Veras was in to face the righty. Victorino did fall behind 0-2, but he was sitting on the breaking ball in this count. That paid off. Veras’ slow curveball stayed up in the zone, Victorino stayed back on it and the ball ended up in the second row of the Monster Seats. It turned a 2-1 deficit into a 5-2 lead, and the Red Sox bullpen held on over the next two innings and that was that. It wasn’t a walk-off, but it was pretty damn close and it essentially won the pennant.

We know what happened after that. The Red Sox went on to win the whole thing and this roster went down in franchise history forever. This, as I’m sure you know, will not be the last time we talk about the 2013 team in this decade-in-review series. In a season with so many memorable moments, though, the Victorino grand slam stands out as one of the best.