The corks were popped again on Tuesday night at Tropicana Field after
the Red Sox beat the Rays to win the ALDS and book a ticket into the
ALCS, which begins Saturday at Fenway Park (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
The Red Sox added yet another shine on their worst-to-first turnaround season Tuesday night at Tropicana Field, beating the Tampa Bay Rays 3-1 to win the American League Division Series three games to one and punching their ticket into the American League Championship Series, which opens Saturday at Fenway Park against either Detroit or Oakland.
The Tigers held off the Athletics 8-6 at Comerica Park in Game Four of that Divisional Series earlier on Tuesday to book a do-or-die fifth game in Oakland on Thursday.
In the meantime, Boston has ample time to sit back, sip some champagne and celebrate its first trip to the ALCS since 2008.
Four more wins and the Red Sox will find themselves back in the World Series for the first time since '07, when they swept the Colorado Rockies to claim their second championship crown in three seasons.
Sox starter Jake Peavy — acquired at the trade deadline in exchange for shortstop Jose Iglesias for exactly this type of high-pressure assignment — thrived in the Trop spotlight through five and two-thirds, allowing only one run on five hits while walking none and striking out three.
Peavy, who hadn’t pitched in a postseason game since 2006, threw 49 of his 74 pitches for strikes and kept the Tampa Bay bats in check before giving way to southpaw Craig Breslow, who picked up the baton in masterful, shut-down fashion, striking out four while allowing only one hit in an inning and two-thirds to earn the victory.
Koji Uehara struck out two of the four batters he faced in one and a third, locking down his second save of the postseason.
Including a brief, one-batter appearance by Junichi Tazawa, the Boston relievers combined to strike out seven of the last ten Rays they faced.
Rays manager Joe Maddon shuffled out a dog’s breakfast of nine different pitchers in the game and saw his hurlers hand out eight walks, while the Sox pitching corps didn’t allow a free pass to first the entire night.
Jeremy Hellickson — who was 1-4 with a 7.20 ERA in his last six starts — started the game for Tampa Bay and recorded a 12-pitch, 1-2-3 first, but was lifted in the second after giving up two walks and a single to load the bases. Jake McGee was charged with the loss after giving up two runs on one hit and walking one in two-thirds of an inning. Fernando Rodney allowed Boston’s other run while also walking two in just a third of an inning.
It was Tampa Bay’s fifth elimination game in the last nine days, but this time Boston found a way to finally crack the St. Petersburg squad's last-gasp veneer and send the Rays off to the showers for the final time in 2013.
Shane Victorino went 1 for 3 with an RBI and was hit by a pitch twice — making it four times in the ALDS he was drilled after leading the American League with 18 HBPs in the regular season — and Dustin Pedroia went 1 for 4 with a critical sac fly in the ninth. Xander Bogaerts, who replaced Stephen Drew in the seventh, made his presence felt in just two appearances, drawing a pair of walks and scoring two of Boston’s three runs. Daniel Nava also recorded his first career postseason hit with a single to right field in the second.
With the win, the Sox are now 3-3 all-time in postseason play at Tropicana Field.
Here are the four at-bats that changed the game:
1. DeJesus Freak: In the sixth and after Yunel Escobar doubled to left and then advanced to third on a groundout by Jose Lobaton, David DeJesus — 3 for 24 lifetime vs. Peavy — ripped a fastball into right to send home Escobar and give the Rays a 1-0 lead.
2. Peralta Falter: With two out and men on the corners for Boston in the seventh and Shane Victorino at the plate, Joel Peralta uncorked a wild pitch that allowed Xander Bogaerts to score and tie the game up while also advancing Jacoby Ellsbury to third.
3. Routine Shane-tenance: With Ellsbury at third, Victorino hit a slow roller to short that he was able to beat out at first, giving Ellsbury ample time to cross the dish and give Boston a 2-1 lead.
4. Like A Good Neighbor, Pedroia Is There: The grit and guts of the Red Sox, Dustin Pedroia, came through in the clutch with a big insurance run in the ninth, lofting a sacrifice fly deep enough to score Bogaerts from third to put Boston up 3-1.
The American League Championship Series will begin Saturday at Fenway Park with game times, pitchers — and an opponent — yet to be determined. It’s safe to assume, however, that manager John Farrell will hand the Game One ball to Jon Lester, who went 7.2 innings in the first game of the ALDS and gave up only two runs on three hits while striking out seven.