Sox's dramatic ALCS win mirrors unlikely season

Sox's dramatic ALCS win mirrors unlikely season
October 20, 2013, 1:45 am
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Red Sox fans should expect a different series then what they saw in 2004 when they faced the Cardinals.

(USA Today Sports Images)

BOSTON -- This is what happens when you have one of those seasons, the kind no one saw coming.     

First, the sure-handed shortstop on the other team, the one regarded as a magician in the middle of the infield, bobbles what might well have been an inning-ending double play.     

Next, your own shortstop who was 1-for-20 in the series, whose every at-bat of late seemed to end in a strikeout, made the defensive play of the series, diving behind the second base bag to somehow glove a  ball hit by Miguel Cabrera, then scrambled to his feet to throw the lumbering slugger out at first, saving a run in the process.     

Then, your right fielder, hobbled by injuries, seemingly unable to put bat on ball for the month of October, blasts a grand slam in the seventh inning, and wins you the pennant.     

And finally, the whole thing is wrapped up by The Accidental Closer, the guy who got the job almost by default, when the three relievers chosen before him either got injured, or were in effective, or both.     

Could it have been any other way?     

A simple, pedestrian victory wouldn't have done for this bunch. That would have been too predictable, too ordinary for the 2013 Red Sox.     

No, the Red Sox' 5-2 victory over the Detroit Tigers in Game 6 of the American League Championship Series, had to be a nice surprise, a game with heroes who came out of nowhere. The win to give the Red Sox their 12th American League pennant had to be somehow completely unpredictable, because that was the whole season, from start to finish.     

It couldn't be routine. It had to come from unlikely sources, and arrive in a way that no one could have anticipated, because, really, hasn't that been the way it's been from the start?     

So the things you didn't expect kept coming, one after another, from Jose Iglesias's error, to Stephen Drew's spectacular grab in the seventh which ensured that a one-run deficit didn't get any worse.     

Until he came to the plate in the bottom of the seventh inning Saturday night to face Detroit Tigers reliever Jose Veras, Victorino's body -- not his bat -- had been his best offensive weapon.     

Even the ability to do the little things, the things in which he usually took so much pride, seemed to abandon him. In the third inning, with runners at first and second, he tried to bunt against Max Scherzer -- and popped up his attempt, right in front of the plate, with Scherzer himself charging off the mound to record the out.     

He stood a better chance of being hit by a pitch that he did in actually, you know, hitting a pitch.     

That happened, too, in his previous at-bat, in the sixth inning, when he bravely took a fastball from Scherzer in the side and took his base. It was a painful moral victory at the time.     

It was his sixth hit-by-pitch this post-season, extending his own record.     

And as he came to the plate, with the bases loaded in the bottom of the seventh, most Red Sox fans were undoubtedly hoping for another. What's one more bruise, one more seam-imprinted souvenir on the body, with the pennant on the line.     

When Victorino fell behind 0-and-2 to Veras, even getting hit by a pitch seemed a reach. This was, after all, a guy who was 2-for-23 in the series, with nine strikeouts. Those weren't hard-hit outs, or tough-luck at-bats.     

Instead, Victorino reached out and lofted a curveball from Jose Veras into the Monster Seats in left.      

"I told myself to get a pitch I could handle,'' said Victorino. "Try to the game, at minimum. The first thought was get enough air to tie the game (with a sacrifice fly).''     

He did so much more than that. He cleared the bases with grand slam, the second of his post-season career, tying him with Jim Thome for the most in baseball history.     

It was also a complete turnaround to an otherwise forgettable post-season until then. He hadn't homered since September 25, almost a month ago. He couldn't get a bunt down two at-bats earlier     

"...I had an error in the first game,'' added Victorino, as a reporter delicately ticked off his struggles.''     

With a three-run lead, it fell to Koji Uehara, who sometime after late June, transformed into the game's best closer, to get the final three outs, which he did, with typical and relative ease.     

On the lawn at Fenway, they looked ahead to the World Series and promised to the fans that they weren't done.

Who knows what lies ahead over the next two weeks? Who knows what other surprises are still to come.     

But for a night, this was enough. One win full of unlikely heroes, delivering a victory and a pennant, one that no one saw coming.