BOSTON – It almost seemed inevitable.
Shane Victorino walked to the plate in the third inning of a scoreless and potentially decisive Game 6 Wednesday night at Fenway Park to face the Cardinals rookie right-hander phenom Michael Wacha, with two outs and the bases loaded.
After sitting out Games 4 and 5 with back soreness, Victorino was 0-for-10 at that point in the World Series. But one only had to remember back to the decisive Game 6 of the ALCS against the Tigers. Victorino had been 2-for-22 before his seventh-inning grand slam delivered a win and the American League pennant.
So, his absence from the lineup for two games, his sore back, and his 0-for-4 against Wacha in Game 2 surely signaled what was about to happen.
Victorino drove a Wacha 2-and-1, 93-mph fastball high off the Wall in left field for a double, scoring Jacoby Ellsbury, David Ortiz, and Jonny Gomes. Those were all the runs the Sox would need, on their way to a 6-1 win, and a World Series championship.
“I’m every bit of confident,” Victorino said. “No I’m just kidding. Hey, if I go up there with the mindset that you’re going to beat me then I’m behind the eight ball. I go up there with the mindset that I’m going to do my best, I’m going to give it 100 percent and leave it all out there. I’ve been very fortunate to come up in big moments and be able to produce. I can be 0-fers the rest of the way but one big moment can change a lot.”
Victorino added an RBI single in the fourth, finishing the game 2-for-3, with a double, four RBI, and a walk. While he hit just .154 in the Series, he hit when it counted.
“Here’s s a guy that you don’t know where he’s coming from half the time," said bench coach Torey Lovullo. "If he’s going to bat left-handed or right-handed. He’s very quirky with his approach to the game. But the one thing, when it comes 7:00 it’s time for him to perform he goes out there and does a great job.
“Nothing he does surprises us because he’s always prepared. I think we held him back in Game 5 so he could have a big moment like this. But he watches the game, he wasn’t too far way. So this doesn’t surprise me. He's always engaged, he’s always ready.”
Victorino drove in eight runs in three plate appearances in the postseason with the bases loaded, and is 6-for-8 in his postseason career with the bases loaded, with a double, two home runs, two walks, and getting hit by a pitch. He has a major league-record 20 RBI in the postseason with the bases loaded.
“The fact that he’s had a number of occasions where he’s had two or three days off, he seems to never lose his timing at the plate and comes up huge in some big moments,” said manager John Farrell. “The grand slam against Detroit, the three-run [double] tonight. I know that he doesn’t want to sit out but there are times that you just have to take it out of his hands. But the fact that he can step in with that amount of time missed is pretty remarkable.”
“To get these kind of moments, this is what it’s all about,” Victorino said. “And for me, lucky enough it worked out. I don’t ever go up there with the mindset that this is what’s going to happen. It just seems to be happening that way. I’m very fortunate.
“But we knew we had a tough task, I tip my hat to the Cardinals. They gave us that fight, the series we thought it would be. It’s nice obviously to be on the winning side.”
Victorino – who is the 17th player in World Series history with four RBI in a clinching game, and first since the Yankees’ Hideki Matsui had six RBI in 2009 – ended up on third base after his double, advancing when Cardinals left fielder Matt Holliday threw to catcher Yadier Molina, attempting to cut down Gomes at the plate. Victorino, who is the embodiment of enthusiasm, could not mask his emotions.
“You saw what I did,” he said. “No disrespect to anybody, the beating of the chest, the double shakas. It’s just excitement. I hold no [disrespect] to the Cardinals. The magnitude of the moment. Wacha has pretty much been unhittable. That whole staff over there. I respect every one of those guys. I knew it was going to be a dogfight for us. So getting to third base and showing that emotion that I did, that’s the answer: happiness, joyfullness, loudness of Fenway on its feet.”
Seeing Wacha in Game 2, despite his earlier futility, helped Victorino in Game 6.
“I think it helped a lot, get an idea,” Victorino said. “This was still tough for us, worked out on our side. But it was nice to see what he did. He still was dominant when he pitched here Game 2. But we got to go out there with the attitude we got to play every single out, every single inning, and if you’re not ready, we’re going to try to beat you. We’re going to go at you, we’re not afraid to do that.
After the last out of the game, securing the Red Sox championship, when Koji Uehara struck out Matt Carpenter, Victorino bolted in from right field.
“Seeing that last out, and running in,” he said, “it felt like I was running forever to get to that pile.”
BOSTON – It almost seemed inevitable.