Shane Victorino’s grand slam puts the Red Sox back on top in the seventh inning of Game 6

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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.

In the playoffs, the Yankees’ weakness has become their strength

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Two weeks ago, when the playoffs began, the idea of “bullpenning” once again surfaced, this time with the Yankees as a focus. Because their starting pitching was believed to be a weakness — they had no obvious ace like a Dallas Keuchel or Corey Kluber — and their bullpen was a major strength, the idea of chaining relievers together starting from the first inning gained traction. The likes of Luis Severino, who struggled mightily in the AL Wild Card game, or Masahiro Tanaka (4.79 regular season ERA) couldn’t be relied upon in the postseason, the thought went.

That idea is no longer necessary for the Yankees because the starting rotation has become the club’s greatest strength. Tanaka fired seven shutout innings to help push the Yankees ahead of the Astros in the ALCS, three games to two. They are now one win away from reaching the World Series for the first time since 2009.

It hasn’t just been Tanaka. Since Game 3 of the ALDS, Yankees pitchers have made eight starts spanning 46 1/3 innings. They have allowed 10 runs (nine earned) on 25 hits and 12 walks with 45 strikeouts. That’s a 1.75 ERA with an 8.74 K/9 and 2.33 BB/9. In five of those eight starts, the starter went at least six innings, which has helped preserve the freshness and longevity of the bullpen.

Here’s the full list of performances for Yankee starters this postseason:

Game Starter IP H R ER BB SO HR
AL WC Luis Severino 1/3 4 3 3 1 0 2
ALDS 1 Sonny Gray 3 1/3 3 3 3 4 2 1
ALDS 2 CC Sabathia 5 1/3 3 4 2 3 5 0
ALDS 3 Masahiro Tanaka 7 3 0 0 1 7 0
ALDS 4 Luis Severino 7 4 3 3 1 9 2
ALDS 5 CC Sabathia 4 1/3 5 2 2 0 9 0
ALCS 1 Masahiro Tanaka 6 4 2 2 1 3 0
ALCS 2 Luis Severino 4 2 1 1 2 0 1
ALCS 3 CC Sabathia 6 3 0 0 4 5 0
ALCS 4 Sonny Gray 5 1 2 1 2 4 0
ALCS 5 Masahiro Tanaka 7 3 0 0 1 8 0
TOTAL 55 1/3 35 20 17 20 52 6

In particular, if you hone in on the ALCS starts specifically, Yankee starters have pitched 28 innings, allowing five runs (four earned) on 13 hits and 10 walks with 20 strikeouts. That’s a 1.61 ERA.

While the Yankees’ biggest weakness has become a strength, the Astros’ biggest weakness — the bullpen — has become an even bigger weakness. This is why the Yankees, who won 10 fewer games than the Astros during the regular season, are one win away from reaching the World Series and the Astros are not.