The Boston Red Sox defeated the Tampa Bay Rays 3-1 in Game 4 of the ALDS on Tuesday night to advance to the American League Championship Series for the first time since 2008. Oddly enough, the last time the Sox were in the ALCS they lost to the Rays in seven games.
What separates a great team from a good team is how they respond to snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. After winning Games 1 & 2, the Sox had a 3-0 lead in Game 3. However, Evan Longoria tied the game with a three run home run in the fifth. Back up catcher Jose Lobaton hit a walk off home run off Red Sox closer Koji Uehara to win the game 4-3.
Well, in Game 4, it was as if Game 3 didn't happen. If anything, it was Rays manager Joe Maddon who pushed the panic button. After retiring the side in the first, Rays starter Jeremy Hellickson loaded the bases in the second. Maddon immediately removed in favor of veteran Jamey Wright. In all, Maddon used nine pitchers tonight.
Red Sox starter Jake Peavy pitched into the sixth inning before giving up a run on a single to David DeJesus. Peavy was removed in favor of lefty reliever Craig Breslow. The Yale graduate in biochemistry and molecular biophysics methodically took apart the Rays lineup striking out James Loney, Evan Longoria, Ben Zobrist and Desmond Jennings in succession. Breslow also made a spectacular play covering first on a sharp ground ball hit by pinch hitter Delmon Young.
In the seventh, rookie shortstop Xander Bogaerts drew a walk in a pinch hit appearance before scoring on a wild pitch by Rays reliever Jake McGee. Maddon lifted McGee in favor of Joel Peralta who gave up a single to Shane Victorino to score the go ahead run giving the Red Sox a 2-1 lead.
Maddon brought in Rays closer Fernando Rodney in the ninth, but he did not have his stuff. Rodney walked Bogaerts and Jacoby Ellsbury and plunked Jacoby Ellsbury (he did, however, strike out Will Middlebrooks). Maddon brought in Chris Archer to face Dustin Pedroia. The Laser Show drove home Bogaerts with a sacrifice fly to give the Red Sox an insurance run. With Lobaton's home run a distant memory, Uehara got the final four outs and ended the Rays season.
The Red Sox will host Game 1 of the ALCS on Saturday with their opponent to be determined on Thursday night when the Detroit Tigers and Oakland A's face off in Game 5 of the ALDS in Oakland. The Tigers evened up the series today with a 8-6 victory over the A's. Oakland had a 3-0 lead in the fifth, but Jhonny Peralta tied it with a three run home run. Probable AL Cy Young winner Max Scherzer earned a win in relief while Tigers DH Victor Martinez hit a controversial two run home run which appeared aided by spectator interference. However, the umpires reviewed the play and upheld Martinez's home run. As for Game 5, the Tigers will start Justin Verlander while Bartolo Colon gets the ball for the A's.
I wonder if having three days off will be a disadvantage to the Red Sox. Then again a four day layoff between the end of the regular season and the beginning of the ALDS didn't work against Boston. However, the only guarantee in baseball, as in life, is that there are no guarantees. But this is half the fun of baseball and life.