BOSTON (CBS) – It wasn't easy, and the game itself was anything but conventional, but the Red Sox earned a hard-fought 3-1 victory in Game 4 of the ALDS to earn a trip to the ALCS.
Jake Peavy battled for the Red Sox on the mound, but every potential Red Sox rally had been stifled, either due to an unorthodox double play and a lack of hitting with runners in scoring position.
Yet John Farrell went to the bench in the top of the seventh, tapping Jonny Gomes to hit for the struggling Jarrod Saltalamacchia before making the much-debated move to insert Xander Bogaerts into the lineup for Stephen Drew.
Bogaerts, who hadn't dug in to a batter's box in a game since Sept. 29, calmly worked a walk against Jake McGee.
The rookie's patience led to the Red Sox' first runs of the game, and the two runs on the board were all they would need for the win.
Now, the Red Sox get to hang out for a few days and wait to find out who will be heading to Fenway Park on Saturday night for Game 1 of the ALCS.
The Key Moment
After Bogaerts worked a walk (and really, not enough can be said about the poise he had in that moment to stay within himself and get on base after such a long layoff), Will Middlebrooks struck out on eight pitches for the second out of the inning.
Jacoby Ellsbury then lined a single to center field, advancing Bogaerts to third base with Shane Victorino coming to the plate.
To that point, the Red Sox had left runners on base to end three innings, and clutch hits were hard to come by. As it turned out, they wouldn't need one, as Joel Peralta's first pitch bounced in the dirt and skipped away from catcher Jose Lobaton.
Bogaerts hustled home, and Ellsbury – who was stealing second on the pitch – made his way to third base. Victorino showed bunt on the next pitch but took a strike, and he then hit a slow roller to shortstop. He was able to beat Yunel Escobar's throw to first, which allowed Ellsbury to score the all-important go-ahead run.
The man? The man was Jake Peavy. He was everything he's been hailed as – a bulldog, a competitor, whatever you'd like to say.
His only blemish came in the sixth inning, leading to Farrell yanking his starter after some the Rays were starting to make some solid contact. Yet Peavy more than did his job in a clinching situation in Game 4, especially when contrasted with the inability of opposing starter Jeremy Hellickson to even record an out in the second inning.
Peavy's final line said he made it through 5.2 innings while allowing just one run, but he did much more than that. He shut down the Rays and made it plenty deep enough into the game to allow Farrell to work the bullpen the way he wanted the rest of the way.
That would have to be Joel Peralta, with some blame falling on Jose Lobaton, for the wild pitch that allowed the tying run to score and the go-ahead run to get to third base.
In a game as tight as this one, it's all about execution. Those two failed at the most common of occurrences on a baseball field in the most inopportune moment for their team.
The top of the seventh was the key moment of the game, but things still got tense after that. Yunel Escobar's infield single in the bottom of the eighth put the pressure on Farrell and the bullpen, but Junichi Tazawa and Koji Uehara got the Sox out of the inning unscathed.
The task of managing the bullpen was made easier by Craig Breslow's outstanding work out of the pen, as the righty struck out four batters over 1 2/3 innings. It was Breslow that allowed the infield single to Escobar, which is a good indication of all the Rays could muster against him.
Unknown – other than Fenway Park will be host to Game 1 of the American League Championship Series on Saturday. Their opponent won't be determined until late Thursday night, when the A's host the Tigers in the deciding Game 5 of their ALDS.
Until then? Party on. The Red Sox are in the ALCS for the first time since 2008.
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