When the Red Sox announcing the signing of Shane Victorino last December it’s hard to envision many members of The Nation doing cartwheeling or high-fiving the cashier at Dunkin’ Donuts. Useful player? Sure. But 32-year-old outfielders coming off a year where they hit .255 don’t tend to generate very much excitement, especially for a team coming off its worst season in ages.
Fast forward 10 months and Victorino is a key part of the Red Sox turnaround from last place to the ALCS. It wasn’t a big, splashy move by Ben Cherington, but it was a smart baseball move that continues to pay dividends. During the regular season Victorino posted a solid .294/.351/.451 line and maybe more importantly gave Boston a capable in-house replacement to spell oft-injured Jacoby Ellsbury in centerfield.
Victorino was in the middle of everything the Sox did to close out Tuesday night’s 3-1 win over the Rays at the Trop which wrapped up the series. He finished the ALDS 6-for-14 with a .556 on-base percentage thanks in part to getting hit by four pitches — twice Tuesday night.
There isn’t a baseball metric to define this, but in the seventh inning and the Sox trailing 1-0 Victorino made a very smart play. With runners on the corners and one out, Joe Maddon brought in his sixth relief pitcher of game, Joel Peralta. On the first pitch Victorino put his bat down like he would bunt, the pitch sailed to the backstop allowing Xander Bogaerts to score from third.
Did Victorino’s ploy influence the pitch getting away? Maybe, maybe not. Either way it was a savvy move that doesn’t show up in the box score.
Later in the at bat Victorino’s infield single scored Jacoby Ellsbury for what proved to be the winning run.
With each passing game this month, we learn there isn’t an exact formula to winning games in October no matter what everyone writes or opines from afar. Having guys like Victorino — a World Series winner in 2008 with the Phillies — certainly helps.
More importantly it allows you to do stuff like this and that’s what really counts, doesn’t it?