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    Shane Victorino hit switch at right time for Red Sox

    Shane Victorino’s grand slam in the seventh put the Red Sox in the lead and sent Fenway into a frenzy.
    Shane Victorino’s grand slam in the seventh put the Red Sox in the lead and sent Fenway into a frenzy.

    In Game 6 of the American League Championship Series, the name fit the accomplishment.

    Shane Victorino stepped up to the plate in the seventh inning Saturday with the bases loaded and the Red Sox trailing, 2-1, and delivered a grand slam to left that launched the Sox into the World Series.

    “My thought was to just get something in the air and get us back into the game,’’ Victorino said. “When I hit it, I started to think maybe it could hit the wall or go out.


    “It was a big moment. I was excited. I started to pound my chest going around the bases. I hope [the Tigers] understand. It was a special moment. I meant no disrespect to them.”

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    He had gone 2 for 24, committed a rare outfield error earlier in the series, couldn’t get a crucial bunt down, and had been the subject of debate as to whether he should be dropped in the order.

    He had mystified everyone with his switch-hitting approach. He’s been a righthanded hitter for most of the last two months, but once in a while he’d surprise people and switch to the left.

    He had one of the greatest defensive seasons in right field in a long time here. His UZR ratings were off the charts and he may win his first Gold Glove in right to go with the three he won playing in center for the Phillies. That’s what he does.

    In addition to the switch-hitting thing, he’s got this hit-by-pitch thing. He led all of baseball with 18 HBPs in the regular season and had another Saturday night, his sixth of the postseason.


    He’s been accused of leaning into pitches. Even Tigers starter Justin Verlander said that sometimes the pitches that hit Victorino are close to being strikes.

    Top that with, he’s been so injured all season.

    The reason he stopped batting lefthanded was that he had an injured leg and couldn’t stride properly from that side of the plate. He’s had a bad back, a sore hand, sore legs. He’s been this walking mummy after games. Ice pack here. Ice pack there. He’s got so much ice on him sometimes it appears as though he’ll topple over.

    But he gets to the ballpark the next day, does all of this physical therapy, and, miraculously, he gets back out there. Victorino could give you a thousand excuses, and probably legitimate ones, as to why he could have spent a lot more time on the bench or the DL, but he doesn’t do that.

    Every game he sucks it up and does his best to contribute.


    He had a little fun with former teammate Jose Iglesias earlier in the series when he tried to throw out the Tigers shortstop at first base from right field. Iglesias didn’t appreciate it and made a gesture toward him. Victorino said the next day Iglesias didn’t mean anything by it. Then in Game 6, Iglesias singled to right in the third inning and Victorino thought about it, but withheld.

    Some days, he doesn’t look so hot. Some days, he can look downright awful.

    He went 0 for 3 against Max Scherzer, including his hit-by-pitch in the sixth. In the seventh, he was in the on-deck circle when lefthander Drew Smyly relieved Scherzer and got Jacoby Ellsbury to ground up the middle, a play muffed by Iglesias to load the bases. Out went Smyly, in came Jose Veras.

    Well, the difference between Scherzer and Veras is like being locked up in a cave (when you’re facing Scherzer) and then breaking out and finding yourself on a beach in Hawaii (facing Veras).

    Maybe the fly ball to left on that 0-and-2 curveball by Veras wasn’t smashed. Maybe it was a Fenway homer. But who cares how you describe it. It went over the Wall and by the time Victorino was rounding second base, he could hardly contain himself.

    His arms were flailing. He was pumping his fists. He was pounding his chest. Red Sox players patiently awaited his arrival at home plate where they swarmed him with appreciation.

    The Fenway crowd went nuts. There had been excitement all night because the Tigers kept making mistakes and missing opportunities.

    And it appears Victorino, who had also hit a grand slam in his previous life with the Phillies in the 2008 NLDS, must have felt the same way.

    He acted.

    He admittedly knew he hadn’t come up big in this series. He went through all of the miscues and missed opportunities in his mind. But he knew he was going to do something special right there.

    “I just told myself to go out there and do what you do best. Let it all hang out. Play to the best of your ability,” he said.

    He felt he had accomplished something. He felt he had met another challenge. He remembered how hard it was to be a switch-hitter and the work you have to put in from both sides of the plate. He had mastered that. And then he said when his hamstring and back injuries began to happen, he felt his best chance to help the team was to hit exclusively righthanded.

    And so he had to learn to hit righthanded pitchers from the right side.

    “The organization allowed me to take the chance to hit righthanded,” Victorino said. “Let me see if I can do this at the big league level.”

    And he did.

    It was fitting. Victorino vaulted Boston into the World Series, hitting righthanded against a righthanded reliever, meeting the challenge and then some.

    Nick Cafardo can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo.