Boston’s David Ortiz, right ,celebrates with manager John Farrell after Sunday’s ALCS Game 2 win against the Tigers. (Reuters)
DETROIT — The Tigers missed a golden opportunity to take control of the American League Championship Series on Sunday night and now go home even with the Boston Red Sox.
The Tigers blew a five-run lead and lost 6-5 to the Red Sox in Game 2 at Fenway Park. David Ortiz’s grand slam off closer Joaquin Benoit in the eighth inning drew Boston into a 5-5 tie and Jarrod Saltalamacchia won it with an RBI single off Rick Porcello with none out in the bottom of the ninth.
With the best-of-series tied at 1-1, Game 3 is set for today at Comerica Park in Detroit with Justin Verlander starting for the Tigers against John Lackey.
Sunday night’s heroics were just the latest chapter in Ortiz’ storybook postseason career.
Red Sox owner John Henry presented Ortiz with a plaque on opening day in 2005 that proclaimed the slugger as the greatest clutch hitter in Red Sox history, primarily for his exploits in the 2004 postseason.
All these years later, Big Papi is still coming through in the clutch.
The Red Sox’s chances of evening the series seemed slim once the Tigers scored four runs in the fifth inning to take a 5-0 lead. However, the Red Sox battled back and Ortiz changed the game with one swing of the bat against Benoit before Saltalamacchia won it with his hit off Porcello.
“When you consider down four runs, not a very likely scenario that you come back from that many runs that late in the game,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said.
Tigers manager Jim Leyland shrugged off the loss and said it would not have a negative effect on his club.
“It’s playoff baseball,” Leyland said. “Looked like we had one in hand and we let one get away, there’s no question about that. But there have been two great games and there will likely be a lot more of them before the series is over.”
The Red Sox will try to keep the momentum going in Detroit, though they face a difficult task in trying to solve Verlander. He pitched a total of 15 shutout innings against Oakland in the American League Division Series in two starts, winning the decisive Game 5 after not factoring in the decision in Game 2.
Verlander faced the Red Sox once in the regular season and had a no-decision, though he gave up four runs in five innings. He is 3-4 lifetime against the Red Sox with a 3.63 ERA in 11 starts.
Lackey was 0-1 with a 3.14 ERA in two starts against the Tigers in the regular season, allowing five runs in 14 1/3 innings, and is 6-3 against them in his career with a 3.86 ERA in 12 starts. Lackey beat Tampa Bay in Game 2 of the ALDS, though he gave up four runs in 5 1/3 innings.