Red Sox 3, Rays 1: The Sox are headed to the ALCS!

Brian Blanco

A dominant night of pitching and a couple of pieced-together runs in the seventh allowed the Red Sox to end the ALDS and secure a spot in the Championship Series.

The 2013 Red Sox are headed to the American League Championship Series after defeating the Rays 3-1 Tuesday night to clinch the ALDS at, appropriately enough, 3-1.

For a game that the Red Sox won, this one did not feel like it was going to break Boston's way at all for the fist six innings. And no moment drove that feeling home better than Stephen Drew's at bat in the top of the second. After a very strong top of the first, Hellickson came out for the second and simply couldn't find the plate, walking David Ortiz and Mike Napoli on eight pitches before giving up a single to Daniel Nava, loading the bases with no outs.

Joe Maddon had seen enough, and called to the bullpen with just three outs recorded, bringing in Jamey Wright. And to Wright's credit, he made a good pitch to Jarrod Saltalamacchia, catching him looking at strike three. But to Stephen Drew? To Drew he surrendered a line drive that could have brough all three baserunners home. Instead, it was snagged out of the air by a leaping James Loney, who threw to second to catch Napoli well off the bag, ending the inning.

From the brink of disaster, the Rays saved the scoreless tie. One that would hold until the sixth as a fairly dominant Jake Peavy traded scoreless innings with a parade of Rays pitchers. Finally, though, he allowed a double at the wrong time, letting Yunel Escobar get into scoring position to start the sixth, and then score on David DeJesus' single. The lead was just one run, but the way the Sox had been stranding baserunners, it seemed like getting just that one might be nearly impossible.

So of course they went ahead and got two in the very next inning. And who got the job done? Xander Bogaerts, pinch hitting for Stephen Drew against the left-handed Jake McGee, who he had not been allowed to face in Game 3. Bogaerts would fall behind 1-2, but took the next three pitches to draw the walk, then going first-to-third when Jacoby Ellsbury singled.

Ultimately, the biggest pitch of the game would not even wind up in play. It was Joel Peralta's first offering of the game, bounced in to Shane Victorino and by Jose Lobaton. Xander came in to score, Ellsbury went all the way to third, and then came in to put the Sox ahead when Victorino beat out a throw from Escobar, allowing Ellsbury to put the Sox ahead 2-1.

Peavy, however, was out of the game, lifted early by John Farrell after allowing the one run. That left three innings for Boston's bullpen, with Breslow already having recorded one out in the sixth. Despite the wait, though, he was up for not just a fantastic seventh--strikeouts of Evan Longoria, Ben Zobrist, and Desmond Jennings, all swinging--but even a fifth out in the eighth. While his night would end with a single from Yunel Escobar, Junichi Tazawa was called upon to strike out Matt Joyce, and Koji Uehara came in one out early to end the eighth with a strikeout of David DeJesus.

All that was left, then, was the ninth, and just to make sure there would be no late game-changing solo shot against Koji this time, the Sox added another run in the ninth, with Xander Bogaerts once again reaching via the walk, moving to second on a wild pitch, moving to third when Shane Victorino was hit for about the thousandth time this year, and then scoring on Dustin Pedroia's sacrifice fly.

As it happened, though, the insurance was unnecessary. There were no late-game shenanigans against Koji this time, just three outs, and an ALDS victory. The Rays' season is over, and the Red Sox? They've got more games to play.

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