BOSTON – Koji Uehara was named the MVP of the American League Championship Series after closing out Junichi Tazawa’s win as the Boston Red Sox advanced to the World Series with a 5-2 victory over the Detroit Tigers in Game 6 on Saturday.
Uehara became the first Japanese to win the MVP of either the AL or the National League Championship Series. He struck out two in the ninth inning for his third save of the series, which the Red Sox won 4-2 and during which the former Yomiuri Giants starter didn’t allow a single run or a walk and just three hits.
Uehara also picked up the win in Boston’s Game 2 victory.
“It’s a little scary,” Uehara said of winning MVP honors. “To tell you the truth, I almost threw up (because of the pressure during the series).”
“There’s a reason why he should be the MVP,” Boston manager John Farrell said of his closer.
Uehara capped another dramatic win at Fenway Park for the Red Sox, who grabbed the lead for good thanks to Shane Victorino’s one-out grand slam in the seventh.
The Red Sox will open the Series on Wednesday night against the St. Louis Cardinals, the team they swept in 2004 to end their 86-year title drought. The Cardinals won the NL pennant on Friday night by eliminating the Los Angeles Dodgers in six games.
“It’s one of those moments you live for,” Victorino said as he wandered around the Fenway Park infield while Red Sox fans serenaded him with his theme song, Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds,” and its chorus, “Don’t worry about a thing, ‘Cause every little thing is gonna be all right.”
“Just listen to the crowd,” Victorino said, referring then to the Boston Marathon bombings that left the city reeling during the first month of his first season in town. “The one thing I came here to do is to be a part of this city. With all we went through as a city, there’s definitely a bond.”
Detroit took a 2-1 lead in the sixth and 21-game winner Max Scherzer protected it until the seventh, when Boston loaded the bases on a double, a walk and an error by rookie shortstop Jose Iglesias, traded by the Red Sox in July.
Victorino fell behind Jose Veras 0-2 but lofted a hanging curveball over the Green Monster to set off a celebration in the Red Sox dugout and in the Fenway Park stands.
“It’s been a special ride, and we’re still going,” second baseman Dustin Pedroia said. “We’re not going to stop. We know what our goal is. We want to win the World Series.”
Tazawa got one out for the win, Craig Breslow pitched a scoreless eighth.
“I’m glad I could help out the team in some way,” Tazawa said. “I was just trying to get us out of the inning to keep us in the game.
“I don’t want to think too much about (the World Series) because I’ll just wind myself into a knot.”
Uehara got the last three outs before the Red Sox poured out of the dugout to begin their now-familiar celebration on the mound.
“The way I would sum it up is that I thought their starters were good,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. “I thought their bullpen was great.”
It’s the 13th AL pennant for the Red Sox and their first since 2007, when they swept the Colorado Rockies to win it all for the second time in four seasons. Boston swept the Cardinals in ’04, winning Game 4 in St. Louis to clinch the title that put an end to generations of disappointment.
The latest trip comes one year after a 69-win season that prompted the team to jettison its high-priced stars, rebuild the roster and bring in manager Farrell to replace Bobby Valentine. Victorino was one of the biggest additions, and he delivered on Saturday as he did for much of the season.
“Since the first day of spring training, there wasn’t one person more important than the next,” said outfielder Jonny Gomes, another newcomer, who doubled to lead off the seventh, missing a homer over the Green Monster by no more than a foot. “We’re all pulling in the same direction.”