Victorino's 'big moment' leads Red Sox back to top
Veteran outfielder comes through again with bases loaded in four-RBI Game 6
BOSTON -- It was three minutes before midnight ET, as the last bit of champions were scampering off the field and the Jumbotron turned to the champagne-soaked celebration, when the song played again. And one last time, all of Fenway Park sang in unison.
Don't worry, about a thing, 'cause every little thing, gonna be all right.
Back in July, Shane Victorino changed his walk-up song to Bob Marley and the Wailers' "Three Little Birds." And soon enough, the tune -- like the boisterous outfielder himself -- came to embody this gritty group, and it grew to resonate with this baseball-crazed city.
It didn't take long for Victorino to fit in here. It didn't take long for Boston to fall in love with him.
"The cathedral of baseball," Victorino called Fenway late Wednesday night. "I'm going to keep saying that. This is a special place."
In Game 6 of the World Series, the moment found Victorino again.
The 32-year-old right fielder had missed the previous two games with lower back tightness and had struggled offensively for most of these playoffs. But in the third inning against Cardinals young right-hander Michael Wacha, with the bases loaded and two outs, Victorino came up big again, lofting a fly ball off the top of the Green Monster for a bases-clearing double that saw him get to third on the throw, allowed the Red Sox to get on the board and proved to be the difference in a title-clinching 6-1 win.
Victorino wound up driving in four of the Red Sox's six runs -- adding a two-out RBI single in a three-run fourth -- and provided the knockout punch in each of the last two Boston clinchers.
Over the last two rounds, Victorino totaled five hits. Two of them came on Wednesday, and one of them came 11 days earlier -- as the grand slam that beat the Tigers in Game 6 of the American League Championship Series and drove the Red Sox to the pennant.
"To get these kind of moments, it's just what it's all about," Victorino said, draped in a Red Sox robe and completely dry because he doesn't take part in champagne celebrations. "For me, luckily enough, it worked out. I don't ever go up there with the mindset that this is what's going to happen. It just seems to be happening that way."
Victorino was mostly modest and polite, but he was the total opposite as he rounded the bases for the big hit. After driving a low-and-inside 93-mph fastball, sprinting to second and reaching third base after Matt Holliday's throw barely missed Jonny Gomes at the plate, Victorino clapped his hands, beat his chest with both fists three times and let out a primal yell that almost dwarfed the elation of the 38,447 in attendance.
He couldn't help himself.
"No disrespect to anybody, the beating of the chest -- it's just excitement," Victorino said. "Getting to third base, showing the emotion that I did, that's awesome -- that happiness, that joyfulness, the loudness of Fenway on its feet."
It's what Victorino pictured last Dec. 4, when he signed a three-year, $39 million contract to join an array of veterans who somehow came together to help the Red Sox go from worst to first in one season. It's what he pictured in Spring Training, when he declared that Boston had the talent to win it all.
"I looked at what was around, the team that was around me, the guys who were around me, and that's probably why I said that," said Victorino, also a champion with the Phillies in 2008. "I had a lot of confidence."
Victorino was coming off a down year with the Phils and Dodgers, batting .255/.321/.383, and had barely ever played right field, but general manager Ben Cherington saw something.
"He's always been a really good, well-rounded player, and he's always done a lot of different things well," Cherington said. "Maybe not one thing great, so he gets overshadowed, but the sum of the skills is very good, and he showed them off this year, all around the field."
Victorino settled into the No. 2 spot, eventually scrapped switch-hitting, batted .294/.351/.451, won his fourth Gold Glove Award in possibly the trickiest right field in baseball and brought a necessary dynamic to a tight-knit clubhouse.
"He definitely goes out there and grinds," first baseman Mike Napoli said. "He's been hurt all year, and he goes out there and gives himself up for us."
An achy back kept Victorino out of the Red Sox's lineup for Game 4. He got treatment that entire night at Busch Stadium and felt a lot better by the time he went to bed. When Victorino woke up the next morning, he declared himself ready to go, but manager John Farrell chose to hold him out an extra game to give him some additional time to heal.
"I got to the field and we talked about it," Victorino recalled, "and I said, 'There's no ego here. Whatever you want to go with.'"
For Game 6, Farrell went with Victorino at the No. 6 spot, marking the first time he had hit anywhere but second in the postseason and the first time he had started there all season. His double off Wacha, who was chased after 3 2/3 innings, was the first hit the Cards' rookie had given up with runners in scoring position all postseason. And it marked only the second time in history -- Mel Ott in 1936 at the Polo Grounds was the other -- that a bases-clearing double had occurred in a World Series Game 6.
Going into that plate appearance, Victorino was 0-for-his-last-10. Going into his ALCS grand slam, he was 2-for-his-last-23.
Don't worry, about a thing …
"I go up there with the mindset of, 'I'm going to do what I can, I'm going to give it 100 percent and leave it all out there,'" Victorino said. "It worked out, and I've been very fortunate to come up in big moments and be able to produce. One big moment can change a lot."
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.