Shane Victorino stopped switch-hitting again. For the Red Sox, it’s a good thing he did. With the bases loaded and one out in the bottom of the seventh, Victorino drove a Jose Veras curve down the left field line into the seats atop the Green Monster. The Red Sox took back the lead, 5-2 with six outs left in the game.
The seventh inning started with Max Scherzer looking to continue his sterling performance against the Red Sox, but Jonny Gomes led off with a double off of the Monster, just inches from becoming a game-tying solo home run. After Stephen Drew struck out, Xander Bogaerts impressively worked the count to draw a walk, ending Scherzer’s night.
Tigers manager Jim Leyland brought in lefty Drew Smyly to face the left-handed Jacoby Ellsbury. Ellsbury hit a rocket back up the middle, but shortstop Jose Iglesias was able to field it cleanly. In an attempt to shovel the ball to second baseman Omar Infante, the ball got away from Iglesias, so the Tigers weren’t able to record an out anywhere, loading the bases.
Leyland came out again to bring the right-handed Jose Veras into the game. And that is where it was lost. Victorino watched the ball sail deeper and deeper into the left field, pumping his fist as it landed in the seats. It is his second career post-season grand slam, joining Jim Thome as the only two players to have two career grand slams in the playoffs. Victorino hit one off of CC Sabathia, then with the Brewers, in the NLDS back in 2008. It is also the second timely grand slam in the ALCS for the Red Sox, as David Ortiz took Joaquin Benoit deep in Game 2.
If the Red Sox can record six more outs, they will be on their way to the World Series.
Infielder Javier Baez is back in camp with the Cubs after helping Puerto Rico to a second-place finish in the 2017 World Baseball Classic. He was the focal point of what was, to many, the most memorable play of the entire tournament: Baez pointed at catcher Yadier Molina, who was attempting to throw out a would-be base-stealer, before applying the tag for the final out of the eighth inning.
While Baez didn’t receive much criticism for his theatrics, aside from an insignificant handful of spoilsports, he is one of the players who most exemplifies the emotional, celebratory culture that foreign players bring to Major League Baseball. U.S. (and Tigers) second baseman Ian Kinsler is on the other side of that spectrum, as he said prior to the WBC final that he hopes kids mimic the solemn way U.S. players play the game rather than the emotional, passionate way players from Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic play the game.
Baez isn’t about to apologize for the way he and his teammates play the game. Via CSN Chicago’s Patrick Mooney, Baez said, “We do a great job playing and having fun out there. That’s what it’s all about. This is a game. It’s not as serious as a lot of people take it. but, you know, everybody’s got their style and their talent. I have a lot of fun.”
He continued, “It’s their choice to look at how we play, how excited we get. To us, it’s really huge what we did, even though we didn’t win. All of Puerto Rico got really together. We were going through a hard time over there and everything got fixed up for at least three weeks. Hopefully, they keep it like that.”
Angels outfielder Mike Trout came up with an idea that would allow less experienced umpires an opportunity to call some major league spring training action. As ESPN’s Buster Olney reports, Trout thinks the veteran umpires should only call five or six innings as they get back into regular season shape. The rest of the innings could be called by minor league umpires.
According to Olney, baseball officials loved Trout’s idea when they heard about it last week. One official said, “It makes a lot of sense for a lot of different reasons.” Another said, “That’s Trout — he’s always paying attention to stuff beyond what he’s doing.”
Of course, I have to agree that the suggestion is a great one. As Olney notes, the turnover rate for umpires every year is relatively low, so younger, less-experienced umpires have few opportunities to get a feel for what it’s like calling major league action. Even beyond the actual interpretation of the rules, interacting with big league personalities would also be helpful for minor league umpires.