BOSTON – He had heard it all: Couldn’t get the bunt down. Just 2-for-19. Seven strikeouts. Manager considering dropping him in the lineup. He had been hit by a pitch as many times as he’d gotten a hit in the ALCS.
But Shane Victorino didn’t have to hear it. He knew it. With the bases loaded and one out in the seventh inning, and the Red Sox trailing by a run, most people felt his chances of getting the game- and series-winning hit were slim.
But, slim was better than none.
“This is one of the clichés that I've used, is play the game like it's your last. Play to the end, play to the last out,” Victorino said.
“Lots of thoughts were going through my head, how I was going to explain not getting that bunt down [in the third inning], all these kind of emotions. When I got up [in the seventh, I said to myself], 'Do what you do best, go out and have fun doing what you're doing.' And it worked this time.
Indeed it did. Victorino cracked a grand slam into the Monster Seats that led the Red Sox to a 5-2, series-clinching victory over the Tigers and a berth in the World Series.
"I take all the credit and my teammates take all the credit for pushing me to work hard, to continue to stay positive. Trust me, I was down and out. I heard people talking about dropping me in the lineup. It makes me want to go out and be that much better.”
Victorino was drenched in champagne as he spoke.
“It's not the first time my back was against the wall or people doubted me,” he said. “And I say it in a positive way that I've always been that kind of guy, it's been my drive. People said you're a little too small, I don't know if you can ever get to the big leagues. Scout told my mom in high school, he'll never be a Major League player, he'll never get there. It's stuff that motivates me. Lucky enough it worked out for me.”
Victorino’s slam -- on the third pitch of the game from reliever Jose Veras -- was his second career postseason grand slam, along with the one he hit in Game 2 of the 2008 ALDS against the Brewers while with the Phillies. But it was far from a sure thing in Game 6 Saturday night. He entered the game hitting just .229 in the postseason, with just one extra-base hit, a double in Game 5. His last home run was Sept. 14.
“I told myself to get a pitch I can handle,” Victorino said. “Try to tie the game, at the minimum. Give ourselves ‑‑ get us back in the game and give us another chance. Fortunately I got a 0‑2 curveball that I could handle and was able to hit a home run.
“It was a special moment. It's been a special year, we battled and good moments like this, you cherish it.”
“He's come up big a number of times this season, tonight no bigger,” said manager John Farrell. “Probably the last thing we're thinking of that he's going to hit a ball out of the ballpark and thankfully the curveball stayed.”
Bench coach Torey Lovullo, though, was confident Victorino would do something in the at-bat.
“John was asking me what my expectations were, what Victorino would do,” Lovullo said. “And I said Shane would find a way to drive in that run and tie this game up. Those are typical conversations that we’ll have before the moment, before the at-bat and Shane’s a winner. He’s the type of guy that has so many intangibles. He can step outside of himself for one moment and figure out a way to get the job done and he did a great job of it.”
Daniel Nava was watching from the bench.
“That home run that Victorino hit was sweet,” Nava said. “It was unreal. We were waiting to explode, waiting for something good to happen. We knew that we were on the edge of a big inning happening.
“I couldn’t be happier for Vic because he had the situation a couple of innings before, couldn’t get the bunt down. He takes a pride in that stuff. So I think a lot of that emotion came out, and obviously going to the World Series, all of that, it was awesome.”
Jonny Gomes had a much better view of Victorino’s slam. On third base, Gomes represented the tying run.
“I really don’t know what I was thinking. I jumped on home plate and I was like a kid in a candy story,” said Gomes standing in the Red Sox clubhouse, wearing a bathrobe inscribed with “Ironsides’ and his No. 5 on back, an Army helmet with a video camera attached, doused in champagne and beer.
“When I jumped on home plate it really wasn’t like a run. It was so much more than that. I think we’d have to be here a long time for me to sum it all up.”