BOSTON — When Shane Victorino signed with the Boston Red Sox as a free agent in the offseason, they were coming off a last-place finish that was their worst in almost half a century. They had fired their manager for the second year in a row.
He believed they could turn it around.
Victorino brought the Red Sox one big step closer to completing their comeback, sending them to the World Series with a seventh-inning grand slam that gave Boston a 5-2 victory over the Detroit Tigers in Game 6 of the AL championship series Saturday night.
The Red Sox will open the Series on Wednesday night against the St. Louis Cardinals, the team they swept in 2004 to end their 86-year title drought. The Cardinals won the NL pennant on Friday night by eliminating the Los Angeles Dodgers in six games.
Detroit took a 2-1 lead in the sixth and 21-game winner Max Scherzer protected it until the seventh, when Boston loaded the bases on a double, a walk and an error by rookie shortstop Jose Iglesias. Victorino fell behind Jose Veras 0-2 but lofted a hanging curveball over the Green Monster to set off a celebration in the Red Sox dugout and in the Fenway Park stands.
“It’s been a special ride,” said Boston second baseman Dustin Pedroia, who is from Woodland, “and we’re still going.”
Junichi Tazawa got one out for the win, Craig Breslow pitched a scoreless eighth and series MVP Koji Uehara got the last three outs before the Red Sox poured out of the dugout to begin their now-familiar celebration on the mound.
“The way I would sum it up is that I thought their starters were good,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. “I thought their bullpen was great.”
Uehara, who inherited the closer job after the team’s first two choices were injured, posted three saves and a win in the series.