BOSTON — With one swing of his bat, Shane Victorino made history and put the Boston Red Sox into the World Series.
The right fielder’s grand slam in the bottom of the seventh inning gave the Boston Red Sox a 5-2 win over the Detroit Tigers on Saturday night in Game 6 of the American League Championship Series at Fenway Park.
“It was just a great moment, one of the greatest moments of my career,” said Victorino, who is in his 11th season but first with Boston after signing as a free agent in the offseason. “It’s what we always say, play all 27 outs and see what happens. That’s exactly what happened.”
The Red Sox move on to the World Series for the first time since 2007 and will meet the St. Louis Cardinals. The series will begin Wednesday night at Fenway with the likely starting pitchers being Jon Lester for Boston against Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright.
The Red Sox and Cardinals tied for the major league lead in victories in the regular season as both went 97-65.
Boston continues its amazing turnaround season a year after finishing last in the AL East with a 69-93 record under manager Bobby Valentine. With a new manager in John Farrell, the Red Sox won 28 more games, the AL East title and now the AL pennant.
“It’s going to be hard to top this series as far as intensity and excitement and the closeness of the games,” Red Sox reliever Craig Breslow said. “But you’ve got the teams with the two best records in baseball going head-to-head, so it should be a lot of fun.”
Victorino became just the second player in major league history to hit two postseason grand slams, joining Jim Thome. Victorino also belted one in Game 2 of the 2008 National League Division Series while playing for the Phillies, connecting against the Milwaukee Brewers’ Yovani Gallardo at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia.
“It’s been a special year,” Victorino said. “We’ve battled all year. We battled in this game and it’s a win we’ll cherish, especially the way we came back and what it meant.”
Junichi Tazawa, who retired the only batter he faced, was credited with the win. Koji Uehara, who was named the series MVP, got the save with a scoreless ninth inning and has not allowed a run in eight innings this postseason.
The Red Sox went into the seventh inning down 2-1.
Johnny Gomes led off with a double and rookie Xander Bogaerts drew a one-out walk. Drew Smyly relieved starter Max Scherzer and Jacoby Ellsbury reached on rookie shortstop Jose Iglesias’ fielding error, loading the bases.
Tigers manager Jim Leyland then brought in Joe Veras and Victorino blasted an 0-2 pitch over the Green Monster in left field to give the Red Sox a three-run lead.
“Unbelievable,” Bogaerts said with a smile. “As soon as Shane hit it, I just wanted to jump up in the air as high as I could.”
The irony of the inning is that Iglesias, a rookie who is considered a potential future Gold Glove winner, booted what could have been a double play ball to get the Tigers out of the inning. Even more ironically, the Tigers acquired him from the Red Sox via the Chicago White Sox in July as part of a three-team trade.
“I think we could have turned a double play,” Leyland said. “It was hit pretty hard. But that’s part of the game.”
Detroit had gone ahead 2-1 in the sixth on Victor Martinez’s two-run single.
The Red Sox broke a scoreless tie in the fifth with a run off Scherzer. Bogaerts doubled high of the wall in left-center field and scored on Ellsbury’s line single to right.
Despite playing in their third straight ALCS, the Tigers again came up short of their goal of winning their first World Series since 1984. They were swept by the San Francisco Giants in the World Series last year.
“It hurts when you keep getting this close and don’t win it,” said Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander, who would have started a Game 7 on Sunday night. “It’s tough. A run here, a run there and it’s a whole different series.”
Scherzer took the loss, allowing three runs — two earned — and four hits in 6 1/3 innings with five walks and eight strikeouts.
Red Sox starter Clay Buchholz did not factor in the decision. He pitched five-plus innings and yielded two runs and four hits while walking two and striking out four.
Austin Jackson and Iglesias, the bottom two hitters in the Tigers’ batting order, had two hits apiece.
NOTES: Detroit C Alex Avila was back in the lineup after suffering a strained patellar tendon in his left knee in Game 5 on Thursday night. He was forced out of that game in the fourth inning. …Bogaerts started at third base for the second straight game in place of 3B Will Middlebrooks. In Game 5, the 21-year-old Bogaerts became the youngest player to start a postseason game for the Red Sox since Babe Ruth in the 1916 World Series. … Four of the first six games of the series were decided by one run, tying the ALCS record set in 1997 between the Cleveland Indians and Baltimore Orioles. … Tigers RHP Al Alburquerque pitched in all six games, a record for most appearances in a postseason series by a Detroit pitcher. … Ellsbury has six stolen bases in the postseason and Red Sox have 11 as a team, both club records.