Red Sox thwarted rallies with defense

BOSTON -- Forget for a moment that Red Sox outfielder Shane Victorino crushed a grand slam in the bottom of the seventh inning to help Boston to a 5-2 victory over the Detroit Tigers in Game 6 of the ALCS.

Without their solid defense, the outcome for the Red Sox Saturday night at Fenway Park could have turned out differently.

Second baseman Dustin Pedroia, shortstop Stephen Drew and catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia all proved crucial with their heads-up defensive plays.

With one out, a runner on first and the game scoreless in the top of the fifth inning, the Tigers’ Jose Iglesias hit a ground ball up the middle. Pedroia ranged to his right, made the play to the shortstop side of the bag, tagged second and made the throw to first to complete the double play.

After Boston gained a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the fifth inning, Detroit responded in the top of the sixth on a two-run single by Victor Martinez. The Tigers still had runners on the corners and the Red Sox had their infield playing halfway. Detroit’s Jhonny Peralta hit a ground ball right at Pedroia. After tagging Martinez on his way to second, Pedroia threw to plate as the Tigers’ Price Fielder began to break from third. Saltalamacchia chased the runner down and tagged him before he was able to retreat safely to third.

It was a huge double play for the Red Sox and it likely prevented a big inning.

The Tigers took their 2-1 lead into the top of the seventh inning and threatened once again. With two outs and runners on first and second, Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera hit a ball up the middle that would have pushed a run across, but Drew ranged to his left and made a spectacular play, throwing to first to get the slow-running Cabrera and end the inning.

“It’s huge,” Drew said. “Looking back, you don’t know what happens with Miggy on the ball that I dive for. I mean, that’s another run. Every out is huge. This whole team has always picked each other up and we have confidence in each other.”

The Red Sox responded in the bottom of the inning on Victorino’s grand slam.

Red Sox manager John Farrell made a statement in support of Drew Friday afternoon, saying: “There’s been a lot calling for Stephen’s head, but he’s a very good player. And in these games defense is a premium.”

Drew has struggled at the plate in the postseason but he’s made up for it with his glove.

“I know it has to be tough for guys who are struggling at the plate to go out there and not keep thinking about their at-bats,” said Red Sox pitcher Clay Buchholz. “I’ve said it all season, Stephen Drew is one of the best shortstops I’ve ever been around. We all know he can play the game. We all know he can hit. People go through skids sometimes, but he’s the guy that stands out in my head as the guy who makes a big play whenever we need it. That play [tonight] was a game-saver for us and did not let that run score and we got out of the inning. We’re just a bunch of baseball players.”

Drew went 0-for-3 at the plate in Game 6 but he never let it affect his defense.

“The good thing is when I’m out in the field, I don’t take it out there and that’s huge,” Drew said. “My experience in the field, knowing [batters] and how to play them is huge. My [offense] is there, It’s just a matter of time for the bat to come around. All that matters is wins and that’s the way I look at it. It’s postseason ball and we’re going to enjoy this moment and get ready for the series.”