Red Sox emerge victorious in Game 6 of ALCS, will return to the World Series

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It was the Tigers’ game to lose, but ultimately, the Red Sox won it. Shane Victorino delivered a timely grand slam in the bottom of the seventh to give the Red Sox a three-run lead. In doing so, he tasked the sterling Red Sox bullpen with getting six outs to punch their ticket to the World Series. Craig Breslow and Koji Uehara were more than up for the task.

Red Sox starter Clay Buchholz was effective through five innings, but as he attempted to make his way through the Tiger lineup for a third time in the sixth, he wore down. It was to be expected, as he missed half the season due to bursitis in his right shoulder. Reliever Franklin Morales was of no help to Buchholz either, failing to strand runners that were on base for him when he entered the game with no outs.

But even after the Tigers took a 2-1 lead in the sixth inning, it felt like the Red Sox still had the momentum. The Tigers could have blown the game wide open, but Brandon Workman closed what was a gaping wound and got them out of trouble. As long as they could keep the game close, they knew they had a chance against the Tiger bullpen, which ranked among the worst in baseball during the regular season, and which they took advantage of previously in the series.

Tigers manager Jim Leyland kept starter Max Scherzer in the game to start the bottom of the seventh inning. The right-hander had worked his way out of several jams, getting strikeouts when he needed them most. It wasn’t to be after Jonny Gomes led off the inning with a double and Xander Bogaerts drew a one-out walk. Leyland went to his bullpen, asking them to preserve their one-run lead.

They couldn’t. Lefty Drew Smyly allowed a line drive up the middle to Jacoby Ellsbury,  mishandled by shortstop Jose Iglesias, loading the bases up with one out. Leyland brought in right-hander Jose Veras to pitch to Shane Victorino, who was once again a full-time right-handed hitter rather than a switch hitter. Veras got ahead of Victorino 0-2, but hung a curve ball that he wishes he could have back. Victorino smashed it into the stands in left field atop the Green Monster, taking the Red Sox from down 1-2 to ahead 5-2. In terms of odds, the Sox went from 63.5% underdogs at the end of the top of the seventh to 94 percent favorites after the grand slam.

From there, it was a matter of the Red Sox bullpen doing its job. Craig Breslow shut the Tigers down in the top of the eighth and Koji Uehara finished the job in the top of the ninth. Uehara struck out Iglesias with — what else — a splitter in the dirt, sending the Red Sox back to the World Series for the first time since 2007, when they swept the Rockies. They will match up against the Cardinals at home in Games 1 and 2, starting on Wednesday. It will be a rematch of the 2004 World Series, which the Red Sox won to break the 86-year-old “Curse of the Bambino”.

Watch: Mike Trout ties MLB record with his 25th home run

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It was only a matter of time before Mike Trout courted another all-time record, and on Saturday, he found himself in elite company with his 25th and 26th home runs of the season. He put the Angels on the board with a 429-foot blast in the first inning, depositing an 0-1 fastball from the Orioles’ Kevin Gausman into the left field bleachers:

In the third inning, with the Angels up 2-1, Trout returned to tack on another insurance run. He targeted Gausman’s slider for his second solo shot of the evening and cleared the center field fence with a 418-footer to bring his total to 26 home runs on the year.

Trout has mashed at a staggering .339/.471/.596 clip since his return from the disabled list last month, and Saturday’s totals helped mark his sixth consecutive season with at least 25 home runs. That’s a record few have matched before their age-26 season; in fact, only Hall of Fame sluggers Eddie Mathews and Frank Robinson have ever pulled it off.

Assuming he continues to rake in hits and plate appearances over the last six weeks of the regular season — and there’s nothing to indicate that he won’t — Trout is in line to join elite company of a different kind. The 26-year-old entered Saturday’s game with a 206 OPS+ (park-adjusted on-base plus slugging). According to MLB.com’s Matt Kelly, that means Trout’s hitting at a better clip than the average Major League player by a full 106 percent. Should he finish the year with a 200 OPS+ and 502 plate appearances or better, he’ll be the first player to do so since Barry Bonds obliterated the competition with his 263 OPS+ in 2004.

Blue Jays acquire Tom Koehler from Marlins

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The Blue Jays acquired right-hander Tom Koehler from the Marlins in exchange for minor league right-hander Osman Gutierrez and cash considerations, the clubs announced Saturday. Koehler is in his sixth year with the Marlins and stands to make $5.75 million in 2017. He’ll be arbitration eligible in 2018 and is set to enter free agency by 2019.

The 31-year-old right-hander struggled to a 7.92 ERA, 4.7 BB/9 and 7.1 SO/9 over 55 2/3 innings with Miami in 2017. He was optioned to Triple-A New Orleans in late July, where he rebounded with a 1-1 record in seven starts and whittled his ERA down to a 1.67 mark. The Blue Jays have yet to establish Koehler’s role within their organization, but are hoping to see a turnaround from the righty when he breaks back into the big leagues.

Gutierrez, 22, was assigned to Single-A Greensboro on Saturday. He has yet to find his footing in the minors, and exited a 78-inning stint with Single-A Lansing after racking up a career-worst 7.85 ERA and 8.2 SO/9. His lack of control is particularly alarming, with a 6.2 BB/9 that dwarfs the 2.0+ BB/9 of seasons past, but he still has plenty of time to figure out his mechanics before reaching the Show.