June 21, 2013: Shane Victorino has a breakout day in first season with Red Sox
Shane Victorino, “the Flyin’ Hawaiian,” was one of several new additions to the 2013 Boston Red Sox. Hailing from Wailuku on the island of Maui, he had broken into the big leagues in 2003 and hit .279 over eight seasons with the Philadelphia Phillies, earning three Gold Gloves for his defense and holding down center field for the Phillies’ 2008 World Series champions.
A hand injury had hindered Victorino in 2012 and a few months before becoming a free agent he was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers at the end of July. The Red Sox were looking for a new right fielder – one who could play center if necessary – for the 2013 season and signed the 32-year-old Victorino to a three-year deal in mid-December.1
Early in the 2013 season, the switch-hitting Victorino had gotten on base, hitting .277 (with a .339 on-base percentage) through June 20, but he’d homered only twice and had just 11 RBIs. He’d driven in three runs on Opening Day at Yankee Stadium, and one the next day, but only seven more in his next 43 games.
He’d suffered from back spasms and missed eight games at the end of April and then a little more than twice that many from May 21 through June 7 due to a left hamstring injury. He had been “productive when healthy.”2
As the Friday, June 21, game between the Red Sox and Detroit Tigers got underway, in front of a sellout crowd of 41,126 at Detroit’s Comerica Park, both teams were in first place in their respective divisions. It was the second game of a four-game series; the Tigers had won the opener on Jhonny Peralta’s ninth inning home run.3
The Red Sox as a whole were playing well, leading the AL East by one game over the Baltimore Orioles under first-year manager John Farrell. They had held sole possession of first place in the division since May 27 – a distinct improvement from their last-place finish in 2012.
Starting for Jim Leyland’s Tigers was 29-year-old right-hander Doug Fister. The Tigers were in first place in the AL Central, four games up on the Cleveland Indians. They had claimed consecutive division titles in 2011 and 2012, losing the American League Championship Series to the Texas Rangers in 2011 and falling to the San Francisco Giants in the World Series a season later.
Fister was 6-4 with a 3.21 ERA. He retired leadoff batter Jacoby Ellsbury on a comebacker to open the game, bringing up Victorino.
On the fifth pitch he saw, Victorino pulled a pitch and homered to right field, just inside the foul pole and several rows deep. That gave Boston a 1-0 lead.
Jon Lester started for Boston. The 29-year-old left-hander had started the season 6-0 but lost his last four decisions and had a 4.37 ERA. He gave up a double and a single in the first, but then induced a double play. He was less fortunate in the bottom of the second, allowing two singles, recording two outs, then giving up a game-tying RBI single to catcher Brayan Peña.
The Red Sox went back ahead in the third. With one out, Ellsbury singled to right. So did Victorino, Ellsbury going first to third. Dustin Pedroia grounded to third base; Miguel Cabrera’s only play was to first and Ellsbury scored for a 2-1 lead.
Cabrera walked with one out in the bottom of the third, but another double play took Lester off the hook.
The Red Sox strung together six consecutive hits in the top of the fourth and opened up a 6-1 lead. It was catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia who started the hit parade with a one-out single to right. Shortstop Stephen Drew also singled into right. Third baseman Jose Iglesias reached on an infield single, and the bases were loaded with the top of the order back up.
On Fister’s first pitch, Ellsbury doubled down the right-field line, driving in two runs. Victorino followed with a two-run single that took a “funny hop” just to the right of second baseman Omar Infante, giving Boston a five-run lead.4
After Pedroia singled, putting runners on first and second, Detroit skipper Leyland brought in Darin Downs to pitch to David Ortiz. The move paid off; Ortiz hit into a 4-6-3 double play.
John Lowe of the Detroit Free Press noted that it was Fister’s shortest outing, save for a couple of odd games (one a rainout), and that the Tigers, who had occupied first in the division since May 24, were starting to struggle: “After they received a quality start almost every day for about three weeks, the Tigers have gone four straight games without one.”5
Detroit got back in the game against Lester in the bottom of the fifth. Lefty-swinging left fielder Andy Dirks led off with a home run to right field. Peña singled, and after the first out, so did right fielder Torii Hunter. Cabrera, headed for his second consecutive AL MVP Award and third straight batting title, hit a three-run homer over the bullpen in left-center. The Tigers had pulled back to within a run, 6-5.
Downs was still pitching in the sixth. With one out, Iglesias tripled. After Ellsbury struck out, Victorino, batting right-handed, punched a single between short and third, and Iglesias scored. It was Victorino’s fourth RBI of the game and gave Lester a 7-5 edge.
After a strikeout, a walk, and another strikeout in the bottom of the sixth, Lester was at 102 pitches, and Farrell called on Junichi Tazawa to relieve. Omar Infante flied out for the final out.
Cabrera singled to right with one out in the bottom of the seventh, and Craig Breslow took over from Tazawa. Two fly balls later and the inning was over.
Phil Coke had thrown a one-two-three top of the seventh for Leyland. The first two Boston batters reached in the eighth, though – Saltalamacchia walked and Drew hit a ground-rule double to right field. Al Albuquerque, who had just been recalled from the minors, was beckoned in from the bullpen. Iglesias grounded out second to first, both runners holding.
The Tigers walked Ellsbury, hoping for a double play – or at least a force at the plate. Victorino hit a soft bouncer to short, and Saltalamacchia beat Peralta’s throw home for an 8-5 lead. With Victorino reaching first on a fielder’s choice, the bases were still loaded.
Pedroia popped out to second base, but when one of Albuquerque’s pitches to Ortiz bounced a few feet from catcher Peña, Drew dashed home for the ninth Red Sox run.
Breslow walked one in the bottom of the eighth, but the Tigers failed to muster any more offense.
The Red Sox added a run off Evan Reed for a 10-5 lead in the top of the ninth. Reed had struck out the first two batters he’d faced, but Drew singled to right and Iglesias followed with a single to center. When the ball got through Avisaíl García for an error, Drew scored from first.
Andrew Miller closed out this game, after yielding a run on a one-out walk to Hunter, a single by Cabrera, and Prince Fielder grounding into a force play at second, Hunter scoring.
Lester got the win, his first in seven starts. The bullpen had done the trick, with both Tazawa and Breslow earning holds. Fister bore the loss, with the Associated Press story noting that he hadn’t struck out even one batter and that “Boston had found seemingly every hole on the diamond against him.”6
Victorino didn’t miss many more games in 2013, finishing with a .294 batting average (fifth-best on the team) and a .351 on-base percentage. He drove in 61 runs. He won a fourth Gold Glove.
The Tigers and Red Sox both played postseason ball, the two teams facing off with each other in the American League Championship Series. Victorino was an important contributor there as well, most notably driving in four runs with a grand slam in the bottom of the seventh inning in the clinching Game Six at Fenway Park, catapulting Boston from being down 2-1 to take a 5-2 lead, which held for the final score. He drove in four of Boston’s six runs in the clinching Game Four of the World Series.
In addition to the sources cited in the Notes, the author consulted Baseball-Reference.com and Retrosheet.org. Thanks to Gary Gillette for access to Detroit newspapers.
A brief YouTube video of some of the game action may be seen at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VPFfUHt01BE .
1 Cody Ross had played right field in 2012. Some others who joined the 2013 team and provided depth were Jonny Gomes, Mike Napoli, and Stephen Drew.
2 Nick Cafardo, “Lineup Has One True Area of Concern,” Boston Globe, June 15, 2013: 2C.
3 After the June 20 loss, Farrell had named Koji Uehara Boston’s closer, replacing Andrew Bailey, who had allowed the home run to Peralta for his second blown save in three outings. Bailey himself had replaced the injured Joel Hanrahan as closer. When asked how long he thought he’d have the job, Uehara laughed, “I’m assuming two or three days.” Peter Abraham, “Sox Turn to Uehara to Close,” Boston Globe, June 22, 2013: C1.
4 John Lowe, “Sox Walk All Over Tigers,” Detroit Free Press, June 22, 2013: B1.
6 Associated Press, “Led by Victorino, Sox Break Out Offensively,” Newport (Rhode Island) Daily News, June 22, 2013: 13.
Boston Red Sox 10
Detroit Tigers 6
Box Score + PBP:
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