BOSTON — With one swing, David Ortiz tied the game and helped the Boston Red Sox send the AL championship series to Detroit tied one game apiece.
Ortiz’s grand slam erased an eighth-inning deficit and ended Detroit’s unprecedented run of pitching dominance, then Jonny Gomes scampered around the bases with the game-winning run in the ninth to give Boston a 6-5 victory over the Tigers on Sunday night.
“We need it, man. We need(ed) (to) start some momentum,” Ortiz said. “The whole regular season, you haven’t seen a team shutting us down for 14, 15 straight innings like they have the past couple of days. If you look at the way they’ve been pitching, (it’s) unbelievable. It’s up to us make an adjustment.”
One night after Anibal Sanchez and four relievers came within two outs of the first combined postseason no-hitter in baseball history, Max Scherzer struck out 13 and held Boston hitless for 5 2-3 innings. But the Red Sox loaded the bases against three relievers in the eighth and then closer Joaquin Benoit came in to face Ortiz.
The Red Sox designated hitter lined the first pitch into the glove of the Red Sox bullpen catcher, sending right-fielder Torii Hunter head-first over the chest-high wall after it. Hunter came out only after his teammates had waved for the Detroit medical staff to come out and help him.
“I jumped up. I thought I had a bead on it,” said Hunter, who came up in the Minnesota Twins organization with Ortiz and remains friends with the Red Sox slugger. “Next thing, I know I’m falling over the fence.”
The fans waited until the trainers verified that Hunter was OK to start chanting, “Papi!” and call Ortiz out of the dugout for a curtain call. It was the first career postseason grand slam for a star of the 2004 playoff run that ended in Boston’s first World Series title in 86 years.
“That’s what he does. He’s an amazing hitter,” said Scherzer, who took a no-hitter and a 5-0 lead into the sixth inning but could only watch as the Detroit relievers blew it. “He’s an amazing postseason hitter. He’s clutch. Any given moment, a swing of the bat he can always take you deep.”
Koji Uehara retired the Tigers in order in the top of ninth, then Rick Porcello came on for the bottom half. He gave up a leadoff infield single that left Gomes at second when shortstop Jose Iglesias threw the ball into the Boston dugout.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia hit a foul popup but stayed at-bat when it glanced off first baseman Prince Fielder’s glove when he got tangled up with a fan.
Gomes moved to third on a wild pitch, and then Saltalamacchia hit one through the drawn-in infield to drive in the game-winner.
“It’s playoff baseball,” Tigers manager Jim 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.”
Game 3 of the ALCS is in Detroit on Tuesday, when Justin Verlander faces Boston’s John Lackey.
Miguel Cabrera and Alex Avila homered off Clay Buchholz as Detroit scored four in the sixth inning to open a 5-0 lead. The Red Sox got one in the bottom half, but they were four outs from falling behind 0-2 in the series when Ortiz tied it.
“The guy’s an actor at work,” said Red Sox outfielder Shane Victorino, who had Boston’s first hit off Scherzer on a single with two outs in the sixth. “It’s fun to watch. It’s great to see. He’s always upbeat and always positive. He always likes to go up and swing the bat. That’s what he always wants to do.”
It was an unprecedented third consecutive playoff game in which a Tigers starter took a no-hit bid into the sixth inning. That had never been done even twice in a row before this year’s Detroit staff, which boasts the AL ERA leader, the major league leader in wins and the 2011 AL Cy Young winner and MVP.
“Scherzer was terrific. He was spent,” Leyland said. “Last night our bullpen was flawless, and tonight it just wasn’t quite as good.”
In his first career ALCS start, Buchholz allowed five runs on eight hits in 5 2-3 innings while striking out six.
One night after Jon Lester absorbed a 1-0 loss, Buchholz kept the Red Sox in the game despite allowing three straight hits in the second and spotting Detroit to a 1-0 lead.
But Cabrera hit a solo shot off the light tower above the Green Monster in the sixth, and then Fielder lined a double off the left-field wall. Victor Martinez followed with an RBI double to right-center and Avila hit a two-run shot over the Tigers bullpen to make it 5-0.
Scherzer continued to coast, striking out at least one batter in every inning. The favorite for the AL Cy Young Award after going 21-3 with a 2.90 ERA in the regular season, Scherzer allowed one run on two hits and two walks before leaving after seven innings with a 5-1 lead.
NOTES: Dave Roberts, whose stolen base sparked Boston’s comeback in the 2004 ALCS against the New York Yankees, threw out the ceremonial first pitch. ... Ortiz’s 63rd postseason game tied Jason Varitek for the Red Sox franchise record. ... Buchholz had a 1.20 ERA against the Tigers in four career starts at Fenway Park. ... Victorino’s nine career hit by pitches in the postseason tie him with Alex Rodriguez for the major league record.