BOSTON – Shane Victorino was hit by one pitch in the right arm and another in the ribs. That brought the total to four in four playoff games for the Red Sox outfielder who was plunked more than anyone else in the AL in the regular season.
“Any way to get on base,” said Victorino, who also beat out an infield single to drive in the go-ahead run on Tuesday night in Boston’s 3-1, AL division series-clinching victory over the Tampa Bay Rays.
“Do I want to get hit? No. But whatever it takes,” said Victorino, who combined with leadoff hitter Jacoby Ellsbury to reach base a combined five times in the game. “Teams that win World Series, when the No. 1 and 2 guys are getting on, doing what they need to do, that’s how you do it. … Whatever it takes to get on base.”
Victorino will have plenty of time to rest his aching body after the Red Sox eliminated the Rays in four games to advance to the AL championship series. Boston will play the winner of Thursday night’s game between the Oakland Athletics and Detroit Tigers.
The best-of-seven ALCS opens at Fenway Park on Saturday, giving the Red Sox three days off to rest and line up their pitching rotation. Boston will have played four games in 12 days by then, and really only four meaningful games in three weeks since clinching the AL East on Sept. 20.
“We just knew that every part of us wanted to finish it here,” said Boston starter Jake Peavy, who pitched 5 2-3 scoreless innings in the clincher. “We didn’t want to go back (for Game 5 at Fenway Park) and get David Price again. It’s just outstanding the way we came together as a group and find a way to get it done.”
With the time off, Jon Lester will be available to start Game 1 on Saturday on seven days’ rest. Lester could then start Game 5 on regular rest, if necessary, or the Red Sox could turn to Ryan Dempster or Felix Doubront, who were in the bullpen for the best-of-five ALDS.
The other starters – in the ALDS it was John Lackey, followed by Clay Buchholz and Jake Peavy – would also have a week of rest, or the time off could give manager John Farrell a chance to move things around without using anyone on short rest.
It could depend on whether the Red Sox play Oakland or Detroit, Farrell said.
Lackey started a home game in the ALDS because he was a better pitcher at Fenway Park in the regular season. But he has a strong record in Oakland as well, going 9-5 with a 2.83 ERA there in 18 career starts.
“Those are all the normal things we’ll take into this,” Farrell said on his radio show on WEEI-FM. “I think every guy threw the ball as expected in the games in which they started. It’s not like someone came out of an outing that we’ve got to take a look at the performance.”
The rest will also help the Red Sox relievers, especially closer Koji Uehara and surprise long-man Craig Breslow. Uehara pitched back-to-back nights in Tampa Bay – blowing one save but nailing down the clincher – and Breslow notched five outs, four of them on strikeouts.
“I don’t want to say (he’s) an unsung hero, but he’s flown under the radar most of the year,” Farrell said after the game. “He’s a very dependable reliever. But when he comes out and gets the strikeout of (James) Loney, and he goes through the next inning with the three strikeouts – a huge performance on his part.”