One Swing of the Bat

829080-ortiz-slam

Well, there is some drama for you.

Game 2 of the American League Championship Series between the Boston Red Sox and Detroit Tigers was essentially over. The Tigers had already taken Game 1, and were enjoying a 5-1 lead in the eighth inning of Game 2, about to go up 2-0 in the best of seven series. They would also be returning home with Justin Verlander on the mound for Game 3. Detroit was in a very enviable position, to put it mildly. However, this scenario did not play out, and the series is now tied one game apiece and is very much in doubt.

It is quite remarkable to consider what one swing of the bat can accomplish. The entire nature and complexion of a series can be altered. David Ortiz may have done just that with his eighth inning grand slam Sunday night against the Tigers.

Detroit had completely throttled the Red Sox lineup through the first two games of the ALCS. Anibal Sanchez and four relievers combined to one hit Boston in Game 1, winning 1-0. In Game 2, Max Scherzer had been equally masterful, allowing one run and two hits over seven innings, striking out 13. The Tigers had a four run cushion going into the eighth inning when Jim Leyland decided to pull Scherzer after 108 pitches. I am certainly not faulting Leyland for making this decision, as by all accounts, Scherzer had nothing left. However, things went very wrong soon after.

Jose Veras initially relieved Scherzer, and after recorded one out, allowed a double to Will Middlebrooks. Drew Smyly relieved Veras and promptly walked Jacoby Ellsbury. Yet another change was made, with Al Alburquerque coming in and striking out Shane Victorino before giving up a single to Dustin Pedroia to load the bases. This set the stage for Joaquin Benoit versus Ortiz.

One can argue that it was unnecessary to use four relievers in one inning, but Leyland did eventually get the ball in the hands of his closer. Now how he proceeded to pitch Ortiz is another matter. While I cannot fully advocate an intentional walk in this situation, it really should have been considered, although it would have forced in a run and brought the lead run to the plate. There was certainly no harm in just nibbling around the plate and hoping Ortiz chased a bad ball. In this particular situation, Big Papi was clearly thinking long ball, and may have been overanxious. At worst, you put him on first, still have a three run lead and then face Mike Napoli. However, none of this occurred.

It is difficult to speculate on how Benoit intended on pitching Ortiz, because there was only one pitch. If Benoit did want to pitch around Ortiz, he never got the chance, as Big Papi destroyed the first pitch he saw, sending it screaming into right field, where Tori Hunter went sprawling over the outfield fence in a desperate attempt to make the catch. However, the effort was in vein, and Ortiz had tied the game.

It almost felt anticlimactic when Jarrod Saltalamacchia singled in the winning run in the bottom of the ninth. The damage had already been done with the Big Papi blast, and the tide had turned in the series. The concept of momentum has become something of a cliché due to excessive use in the media, and while intangible and difficult to define, it is quite real. If it does truly exist, the Red Sox certainly have it at the moment.

One swing of the bat. Amazing.

I for one am looking forward to Game 3.

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Posted on October 15, 2013, in 2013, Red Sox, Tigers and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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