BOSTON – David Ortiz took hold of these faltering Boston Red Sox and hoisted them on his legendary broad shoulders one more time.
As Boston looked ready to fade away in the postseason Sunday night, Ortiz spit into his batting gloves, gripped his mammoth baseball bat and swung at the first pitch.
It went far.
Ortiz crushed a grand slam into the Fenway Park home bullpen, tying the game 5-5 in the eighth inning.
The winning run, less dramatic but equally as vital, came when Jarrod Saltalamacchia singled home Jonny Gomes in the ninth inning for a most-improbable 6-5 victory over the Detroit Tigers in Game 2 of the American League Championship Series, before 38,029 at Fenway.
The series is tied 1-1 as the teams head to Detroit for Game 3 on Tuesday.
“As we’ve seen, we’re going to play until the final out,” Red Sox Manager John Farrell said. “David has come up big so many times in the season and in the postseason.”
Before the eighth inning, the Red Sox looked ready to fold. Against Detroit’s vaunted pitching staff, Boston had managed three hits and one run through the first 16 innings of the series, including a 1-0 loss Saturday.
Detroit starter Max Scherzer allowed two hits over seven innings while recording 13 strikeouts as he used all four of his pitches — fastball, slider, curve and change-up.
While Scherzer showed off his Cy Young-worthy stuff, Clay Buchholz was trying to keep his team close, much like Jon Lester did Saturday.
Buchholz looked up to the task for awhile. Save for a three-hit, one-run second inning, Buchholz was keeping the Tigers quiet.
Until the sixth inning.
Miguel Cabrera homered over the Green Monster to make it 2-0. Prince Fielder and Victor Martinez hit back-to-back doubles. With two outs, Alex Avila jumped on a first-pitch fastball for a two-run homer to right and a 5-0 lead.
Buchholz gave up one more single and was done, having allowed five runs on eight hits.
Scherzer carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning, when Shane Victorino lined a two-out single to left. Dustin Pedroia followed with a RBI double off the Monster, closing the score to 5-1, and the Fenway fans erupted. Their team was showing life.
But Scherzer contained the damage by striking out Ortiz on a change-up, deflating the Fenway faithful for the time being.
Scherzer retired the side in the seventh and gave way to the Detroit bullpen. The Tigers’ relievers had been a trouble spot, but they looked strong Saturday.
Sunday, they did not.
Detroit Manager Jim Leyland called on four relievers in the eighth and all allowed a base runner. Will Middlebrooks doubled, Jacoby Ellsbury drew a walk and Pedroia singled to load the bases with two outs.
Leyland called on closer Joaquin Benoit to face David Ortiz.
Benoit went with a change-up on the first pitch. Ortiz was ready and swatted it for the slam.
“David is such a smart hitter,” Farrell said. “He has studied Benoit so much.
Right fielder Torii Hunter sprinted after the ball and flipped over the bullpen wall in an unsuccessful attempt to make the catch.
Boston closer Koji Uehara pitched a 1-2-3 ninth.
Detroit went to reliever Rick Porcello for the bottom of the ninth. Jonny Gomes hit a slow grounder to shortstop Jose Iglesias, a defensive substitute, who threw late and wildly to first, allowing Gomes to go to second. A wild pitch sent Gomes to third.
Detroit brought its infield in and Saltalamacchia drilled a grounder into left field, scoring Gomes. The Red Sox dugout emptied and players mobbed Saltalamacchia, to the thundering cheers of the home crowd.
“It’s playoff baseball,” Leyland said. “Looked like we had one in hand and we let it get away.”
And Boston has new life.
“If we’re going into Detroit down two, that’s a sizable challenge,” Farrell said.
Thanks to Big Papi, though, the series is even.
“It’s incredible,” Saltalamacchia said. “No one is surprised when David does what he does.”
Kevin Thomas can be contacted at 791-6411 or at: