It seemed like deja vu all over again for Red Sox fans on Sunday night, as Tigers' starter Max Scherzer brought back memories of Anibal Sanchez's dominating Game 1 performance by striking out thirteen and allowing one earned run over seven innings of work. Detroit's offense came alive in the sixth, when home runs from Miguel Cabrera and Alex Avila along with an RBI double from Victor Martinez gave the Tigers a 5-0 lead that seemed insurmountable to a struggling Red Sox' offense. The Fenway crowd sat silent and stunned, with an 0-2 series deficit seeming almost certain.
After a Dustin Pedroia RBI single scored Shane Victorino in the sixth, the teams exchanged scoreless innings in the seventh with the Tigers leading 5-1. Felix Doubront shut down the Tigers in the top of the eighth inning, setting the stage for one of the most dramatic innings in Red Sox playoff history.
With midseason acquisition Jose Veras in to relieve Scherzer, third baseman Will Middlebrooks started Boston's offensive charge with a one-out double to left field. Left-hander Drew Smyly came in and walked the only batter he faced, Jacoby Ellsbury, before Al Alburquerque came in to face Shane Victorino.
As Victorino stepped to the plate, Bob Marley's "Three Little Birds" blared throughout America's most beloved ballpark. Realizing that there was a chance for their team, the sellout crowd of 38,029 joined together to belt out Marley's classic line, "and every little thing will be alright" in anticipation of Victorino's at-bat.
And every little thing was alright in Boston on Sunday night, because the Red Sox happen to have the man who many consider to be the greatest clutch hitter in postseason history. Following a Victorino strikeout and Pedroia single, the bases were loaded for none other than David Ortiz.
On the first pitch from Tigers' closer Joaquin Benoit, Ortiz belted an 86-mph changeup into the Red Sox bullpen, tying the game and sending the Fenway Park crowd into a delirium that brought back memories of Ortiz's heroic moments in 2004.
"We needed it," Ortiz said. "We needed to start some momentum going on. Going back to Detroit 1-1 instead of 0-2 is big."
"They have outstanding pitching. We are the kind of team that tries to take advantage of mistakes. The whole regular season, you haven't seen a team shutting us down for 14 or 15 straight innings like they have the past couple of days. If you look at the way they've been pitching, it's been unbelievable."
Catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia was not surprised by Ortiz's clutch grand slam, and noted that the team felt like the momentum was swining in the eighth inning.
"David hitting in the postseason, you knew he was going to break out of it," Saltalamacchia said. "Last night, Sanchez was making a lot of people look bad at the plate so we knew tonight that we had to battle and bounce back. Ortiz going against Benoit right there, I felt something good was going to happen. I think everyone knew that something good was going to happen. He stayed on it, and drove it to right-center."
After Boston's closer Koji Uehara shut the Tigers down in order in the ninth inning, a ground ball to shortstop by Jonny Gomes turned into two bases after Jose Iglesias' errant throw sailed into the camera well. Saltalamacchia stepped up to the plate with Gomes on second and a chance to win the game.
Saltalamacchia took two balls, and then popped up a Rick Porcello offering to foul territory on the first base side. Tigers' first baseman Prince Fielder made an attempt to catch it for the inning's first out, but the ball hit off of his glove and fell into the stands.
"When I did pop it up, I was hoping that it would get [out of play]," Saltalamacchia said. "I saw him getting close to the tarp and I thought he was going to catch it. I think if you watch the replay, I was fist-pumping when he did drop it. That's a big difference between a man on third with one out and a man on second with one out. That was a big turning point, I think."
Porcello threw a wild pitch to advance Gomes to third, and Saltalamacchia became the night's secondary hero by driving Porcello's 3-1 offering through the left side to score Gomes and tie the series at one game a piece.
At the end of one of the most dramatic comebacks in recent postseason history, Boston's de facto captain Pedroia said that the 6-5 victory perfectly embodied the team's fighting attitude throughout the entire season.
""When you back us into a wall, you either do two things: cave or fight. We’re gonna fight."