The 2013 American League Championship Series shifts to Detroit on Tuesday following one of the biggest swings in momentum in playoff history. After being all-but-no-hit in game one, the Red Sox were down 5-1 in the eighth inning in game two, just four outs away from heading to Detroit down two games to none with what was supposedly an unstoppable offense that had been rendered powerless.
Instead, David Ortiz did what David Ortiz does and blasted a Joaquin Benoit fastball into the bullpen for a grand slam to tie the game at five. Just an inning away from dropping tow games on the road and heading to Detroit, the Red Sox bats jumped on the Detroit bullpen to secure what was one of the most thrilling, unlikeliest comebacks in playoff history (Fangraphs game the Red Sox less than three percent chance of winning with two out in the eight).
With one swing of the bat Ortiz changed the narrative from one of Detroit's pitching dominance and Red Sox impotence to one of Boston resiliency and grittiness, and added yet another notch to his impressive post-season belt.
Instead of traveling to Detroit with an off-day to contemplate an offense that suddenly found itself unable to produce, the Red Sox injected themselves with a shot of much-needed adrenaline. Not that the Sox would count themselves out going on the road down two games, but as Boston Manager John Farrell admitted after the game, "If we're going into Detroit down two the way that they've pitched against us, that challenge becomes even greater."
If you had asked the Tigers going into the series, players would likely have told you they would be happy leaving Boston with a win. But after a loss like the Tigers suffered Sunday, it hurts a little extra, as Max Scherzer said, "Probably just because of the nature of it and you're dealing with the postseason... Whenever you lose one in the postseason, it hurts." Not to mention what it does to the bullpen's psyche.
Detroit can comfort itself knowing that their starting pitching has been almost unhittable in the post-season, and the best pitcher in the majors over the past three seasons has yet to throw a pitch. In game three the Tigers will send Justin Verlander to the mound. He is a Cy Young Award winner as well as an Most Valuable Player. In 15 total innings against Oakland, Verlander gave up just six hits, zero runs, 21 strikeouts with two walks.
The Sox will counter with John Lackey, who revived his career this season after a trying 2011 and missing last season after Tommy John surgery. In Game Two of the Division Series against Tampa Bay, Lackey went 5 1/3 innings with four runs and seven hits with three walks.
On paper you'd have to give the edge to the Tigers in game three, but we'll have to wait and see if Sunday's big win has injected some new life into the Red Sox bats. Was Detroit pitching that great, where the Sox hitters that bad, or was it somewhere in the middle? Will an electric win be enough to shake up a lineup that didn't get a hit until the ninth inning in game one and the sixth inning in game two, or will it come down to pitching all over again?
Game four sees Jake Peavy take on Doug Fister. Peavy had a 4.04 ERA since joining Boston and gave up one run on five hits in 5.2 innings against the Rays with three strikeouts. Fister threw six innings against the Athletics, giving up three runs on seven hits. During the regular season Fister had a 3.67 ERA.
Game Five would likely see a reload of Game One, with Jon Lester facing Anibal Sanchez.
Whether the win goes down in Red Sox lore as one of the team's most memorable games, or ends up being a speed bump for the Tigers, only time will tell. For now, Red Sox fans will savor what was an incredible comeback when the team needed it most.
The Red Sox themselves? They have no such luxury.
They still have three more games to win.