Boston — They failed.
Or as Torii Hunter put it: “We failed.”
The Tigers didn’t get as far in the postseason as they wanted and hoped.
They didn’t get as far as they maybe thought their talent should take them.
Instead of the World Series, the Tigers are heading home for the winter after losing, 5-2, on Saturday night to the Boston Red Sox in Game 6 of the American League Championship Series.
Giving the Sox a lead they would not relinquish, Shane Victorino — who couldn’t hit a curveball to save his life most of the series — lifted a seventh-inning 0-2 curve from Jose Veras into the seats above the famous Green Monster at Fenway Park for the grand slam that decided the game, the series, and the direction in which the Tigers will go — as of Sunday.
And that doesn’t mean Comerica Park, folks
It means their Florida homes, their Dominican Republic homes — wherever the Tigers spend their offseason, that’s where they are going.
The 2013 season is over for them.
They got past Cleveland to win the AL Central Division.
They got past Oakland to win the Division Series.
But when it came to playing Boston in the ALCS, they lost in six games.
Victor Martinez didn’t want to leave the dugout after the final out. It was almost as if he couldn’t leave.
“I hate to see it end,” he said. “I always hate to see it end.”
Losing pitcher Max Scherzer said he felt a combination of disappointment and emptiness — the former because the Tigers had lost when they felt so confident in their talent, the latter because Scherzer loves to compete — and unless it’s on the golf course, or in fantasy football, he won’t be competing for a while.
Where did it fall apart for the Tigers on Saturday night? They were behind, then ahead, then behind.
It fell apart because when they had a chance to pull more than a run ahead, they botched the opportunity.
And when they had a chance to stop the Sox before the hammer of Victorino’s slam, they didn’t.
After giving up a leadoff double to Jonny Gomes in the bottom of the seventh when the Tigers led 2-1, Scherzer didn’t get the call he needed from plate umpire Dan Iassogna on Xander Bogaerts.
Instead of striking out Bogaerts, Scherzer walked him, giving the Sox a first-and-second chance.
Then came a costly error by shortstop Jose Iglesias, who’ll make far more great plays in his years ahead as a Tiger than truly bad ones.
But this was a truly bad one.
On a Jacoby Ellsbury grounder up the middle Iglesias thought he could turn into a double play — “It was hit hard enough to turn,” he said — Iglesias didn’t come up with the ball.
“I just dropped it, then couldn’t find it,” he said. “I felt it in my glove, but couldn’t get it done.”
Everyone was safe with one out — Gomes at third, Bogaerts at second, Ellsbury at first.
Manager Jim Leyland switched from lefty Drew Smyly at that point to Veras — with the idea he’d throw Victorino breaking balls.
The first one was a strike that Victorino took.
The second was a strike that Victorino fouled off.
The third, not down enough “but the right pitch,” said Veras, decided the game.
“It was a special moment,” Victorino said. “It’s been a special year.”
The Tigers had their special moments in 2013, but this was not one of them — and as they dressed quietly in the cramped clubhouse at Fenway Park, too tired and sad even to get irked that the media were in the way, they came face to face with their failure.
“I’m shocked, I’m stunned that the season is over,” Hunter said. “We had a great pitching staff and I know Miggy was hurt, but he was still a threat.
“Baseball is a crazy game, a tough game, a game of failure — and we did that, which is why we’re going home. We failed.”
Being like no other ballpark, one of the quirks of Fenway is that with the wall in left, it penalizes the hard-hit ball to left-center, but rewards the high fly closer to the line.
Martinez’s two-run single in the sixth was hit much better than Victorino’s grand slam, but one drove in two runs, the other four.
“Elsewhere, like at home, my hit is probably a grand slam, too,” said Martinez. “But he hit his higher, and that’s what you have to do here.”
Martinez wasn’t making excuses. Fenway giveth and Fenway taketh away, Victor knows that, and this time it tooketh away.
The Tigers shouldn’t have had only two runs at the time, however. After Martinez’s two-run single, they had runners at first and third with no outs. It was their best opportunity to crank open the gates and score some more.
But on Jhonny Peralta’s grounder to second, Martinez was tagged for the first out and because he stopped halfway down the line from third, Prince Fielder got caught in a rundown which ended with Fielder sprawling short of getting back safely.
“He’s supposed to just head home,” said third-base coach Tom Brookens. “If he’s out at the plate, he’s out at the plate, but you tell runners when they get to third, and it’s first and third, ‘you’ve got to go if it’s on the ground.’
“I guess he just got caught up thinking they might come home. But the play there is that man at third takes off.”
The inning fizzled at that point. Not scoring again, the Tigers would have to take their chances with two runs.
And they weren’t going to be enough.
“The difference in the series, when you really look at it,” said Leyland, “is that they hit a couple of bombs and we just didn’t quite do that.
“They hit a couple of timely home runs, Big Papi (off Joaquin Benoit in Game 2) and tonight Victorino.”
Not having Cabrera at full strength certainly hurt the Tigers. But Fielder being unproductive did as well.
“We just didn’t do enough,” said Leyland.
The silence of the clubhouse said it all.
“When you go from the intensity of the postseason to being done,” Alex Avila said, “it’s very difficult to pack.”
But packing is what the Tigers did.