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MLB.com Columnist

Richard Justice

Red Sox's rally steals ALCS mojo

Red Sox's rally steals ALCS mojo

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Red Sox's rally steals ALCS mojo

MLB.com Columnist

Richard Justice

BOSTON -- It was in the seventh inning when Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia began telling his teammates that something improbable was about to happen.

"This isn't over," he announced.

He made sure everyone in the dugout heard it. He didn't stop there, either. He told 'em how it was going to play out.

"We're going to get into the bullpen," he said, "and we're going to beat 'em."

He added something that also stuck.

"This team is too good."

ALDS
The Red Sox remembered his words in the wild celebration that ensued after David Ortiz hit one of those home runs that seemed to shake the old ballpark to its brick and steel foundation in the eighth inning, a grand slam that knotted the score at 5.

There are magical nights like this in playoff baseball. Nights that defy description and logic and percentages. Nights when one team is punched in the gut and the other has its notion of a magical season reinforced.

Sometimes, there are things that can't be explained, and that's how it was Sunday night in Game 2 of the American League Championship Series at Fenway Park as the Red Sox rallied from a five-run deficit to win, 6-5.

Suddenly a series that seemed to be getting away from them looks completely different. Rather than going to Detroit for the next three games down, 0-2, they're all square and the long, tough series that seemed likely may have begun.

In the other clubhouse, the issue could be a hangover. It's not just that the Tigers lost. It's how they lost.

"You've got to have amnesia," Tigers starter Max Scherzer said.

Game 2 changed in an instant, and the Tigers had better hope the entire series didn't change with it.

For 16 innings on Saturday and Sunday, this series was headed one direction. Maybe the Tigers wouldn't admit to that. After all, the guys in the arena have to play it out and fight and claw for every inch.

But the Tigers rode a dominant rotation here, and a night after right-hander Anibal Sanchez threw no-hit ball for six innings in Game 1, Scherzer followed by allowing two hits in a seven-inning, one-run, 13-strikeout performance.

If you're inclined to second-guess Tigers manager Jim Leyland for pulling Scherzer after seven innings, don't. Leyland left himself open to being second-guessed, but this wasn't it.

"I told them I was done," Scherzer said.

Scherzer turned a 5-1 lead over to his bullpen, and Leyland figured he could close it out from there. And then with two outs in the bottom of the eighth inning, with the bases loaded, with the Red Sox finally having some hope, Ortiz did something that added to his own legend.

His grand slam off Tigers closer Joaquin Benoit soared over the right-field wall, and a game that had seemed lost, a game in which the Red Sox had seemed so lifeless, became another special moment in a season filled with them.

"Giving up isn't an option with this team," Red Sox outfielder Jonny Gomes said.

Leyland may wonder what would have happened if he'd chosen a different matchup in the eighth when he summoned Benoit for a four-out save. He'd already used one of his lefty relievers, Drew Smyly, in the game, but still had another, Phil Coke.

Leyland stayed away from Coke, who was going so badly at one point this season that he was shipped back to the Minor Leagues. Still, Coke and Ortiz have a history.

Ortiz is just 2-for-18 against Coke. Beyond that, his batting average this season is 79 points lower against left-handers.

In the bottom of the ninth, the Sox finished it off with Gomes' infield single, an error, a wild pitch and a Jarrod Saltalamacchia walk-off single.

Baseball players always say momentum doesn't mean much because starting pitching sets a tone. Still, if any defeat could linger, this is it.

"I think winning this game is going to tell a lot," Ortiz said.

Or it could just be the first two games of a series that features two good teams punching and counter-punching.

"We're going to play it to the final out," Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "And once again our guys don't quit until that final out is made."

Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. Read his blog, Justice4U. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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