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The Strike Zone

Watch: Shane Victorino's grand slam sends Red Sox back to World Series

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Shane Victorino is in his first year with the Boston Red Sox but he's already earned a spot in the franchise's long and glorious history thanks to his go-ahead grand slam in the seventh inning of Game 6 of the American League Championship Series. Victorino's glorified pop fly over the Green Monster in leftfield turned a 2-1 deficit to the Tigers into a 5-2 Boston lead that the Red Sox closed out two innings later to advance to their third World Series in the past 10 years.

It also came one batter after Tigers shortstop Jose Iglesias, who has a well-deserved reputation for defensive wizardry that he burnished with several stellar plays in this series, booted what appeared to be a possible double play ball from Jacoby Ellsbury that would have ended the inning. Instead, Victorino hit Boston's second slam of the ALCS. Much like David Ortiz's GIF-friendly blast in the eighth inning of Game 2, it instantly became one of the most memorable ever hit at Fenway Park.

The win continued the worst-to-first turnaround season for the Red Sox, who lost 93 games a year ago but won 97 and the AL East this year before bouncing the Tampa Bay Rays in the AL Division Series. Victorino, too, had a bounceback year at age 32: from a career-low .255 average last season with the Phillies and Dodgers to .294 with Boston in this, his first season after signing a three-year, $39 million deal in the offseason.

He wasn't the only first-year player to make a big impact for the Sox in this series. Koji Uehara, who is making just $4.25 million this year, closed out Game 6 and won ALCS MVP honors. Mike Napoli, who signed an incentive-laden one year, $5 million deal, provided the only run of Game 3 with a solo homer. And Jonny Gomes started the game-winning rally in the seventh on Saturday by yanking a double off the Monster and Tigers starter Max Scherzer.

Just as in his Game 2 start, Scherzer pitched well enough to win but was done in by a bullpen that surrendered a grand slam. Ortiz's in Game 2 turned the series around. Victorino's in Game 6 clinched it.
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