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Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Goodnight Rays, Red Sox Advance to their 1st ALCS since 2008

It was not easy but the Red Sox survived Game 4 at Tropicana Field, defeating the Rays 3-1 to win the ALDS 3-1 and advance to their first ALCS since 2008 (10th in franchise history) with their 100th win of the season. Boston now awaits the winner of Game 5 between Oakland and Detroit, which takes place Thursday (8:07, TBS) in Oakland. Those teams are both excellent so I don't really have a preference about who I want Boston to face. Selfishly, I think it'd be more fun to see the A's since they have so many ex-Red Sox in unlikely starring roles.

Jake Peavy (5.2 IP, 5 hits, 1 run, 3 strikeouts, 0 walks) was very good, Craig Breslow (1.2 IP, 1 hit, 4 strikeouts) was incredible and Koji Uehara (4 outs, 2 strikeouts) bounced back from Game 3 to earn his second save of the series. Poor Jeremy Helickson lasted three batters into the second inning before crazy Joe Maddon pulled him out for a conga line (8!) of Rays relievers. Jake McGee (2 runs) and Fernando Rodney (1 run) were the only Tampa Bay pitchers to allow runs.

Boston was 2 for 8 with runners in scoring position and left 10 guys on base. For a while, this felt like another gut-wrenching loss in the making since the Rays went up 1-0 in the sixth when David Dejesus singled in Yunel Escobar (3 hits, double). Never fear though, the Red Sox went ahead with two runs in the seventh: Jacoby Ellsbury (single, walk) stole second while Xander Bogaerts scampered home on a wild pitch. Shane Victorino's infield single scored Ellsbury who has been money all series (9 for 18, 7runs, 2 doubles, 2 RBIs, walk and 4 stolen bases).

The Red Sox added a key insurance run in the ninth as Dustin Pedroia knocked in Bogaerts with a sacrifice fly. Tampa Bay's lack of offense came back to bite them as it always does (6 hits). After he came on with two outs in the eighth-striking out Dejesus-Uehara had a 1-2-3 ninth that ended with a strikeout of Evan Longoria.

Over-the-top clubhouse celebration aside (everyone in MLB does it), this is a remarkable turnaround for Boston who became only the third team in MLB history to finish last one season then win their division series the next. The best part is that this was not a fluke by any means and they're not just happy to be here. They are the team to beat in the American League and MLB as a whole.

Not going back to Boston for a Game 5 vs. Tampa Bay is huge for many reasons: they get extra rest over Detroit and Oakland plus they can use Jon Lester on Saturday in Game 1 of the ALCS at Fenway Park. After back-to-back long nights of baseball and marathon games four out of the last five days, take a break the next few days and enjoy Cardinals-Pirates Game 5 tomorrow night (8:07, TBS) then A's-Tigers Game 5 on Thursday. The Red Sox are four wins away from the 2013 World Series and eight wins away from their third World Series title in 10 years.

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