Sox walk it off again against Rays, move on to ALCS

BOSTON — The Boston Red Sox advanced to the American League Championship Series on Monday night after walking it off again against the Tampa Bay Rays, 6-5, in Game 4, winning the ALDS three games to one.

With the score tied at 5-5 in the bottom of the 9th, Kike Hernandez roped a sacrifice fly into left field, scoring Danny Santana from third and delivering the win for the Red Sox.

The victory puts the Wild Card-winning Red Sox into the ALCS against either the Chicago White Sox or the Houston Astros, who both won their respective divisions this season. But that won’t be a new task for Boston, as the Red Sox will enter that series fresh off eliminating the AL East champion Rays, who won 100 games in the regular season en route to the best record in the American League.

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On Monday night, the Sox celebrated taking the next step in their playoff journey. For the third time in over a week, the champagne was flowing, and the ski goggles were on in the Boston clubhouse. The team has overcome adversity all season, including several players missing games due to COVID-19. But now they’re one step away from the World Series, a spot many didn’t think they’d be in.

“I mean, this team is resilient, right?” said reliever Matt Barnes. “Every single time. People doubt us in the beginning, and we believe. That’s all it takes. We got a talented group of guys in there, guys with a ton of post-season experience. I think it showed in the last three or four games.”

On the mound Monday, starting pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez rebounded from his abysmal Game 1 start with 5+ innings of work, allowing just three hits and a pair of earned runs while striking out six.

The Boston damage was mostly done in the third inning as the Sox offense came alive and exploded for five runs against Shane McClanahan, all with two outs. Rafael Devers started the onslaught with a towering three-run homer that plated Game 3 hero Christian Vazquez and Kyle Schwarber, putting the Sox ahead, 3-0.

Two batters later, Alex Verdugo slugged an RBI double off the Green Monster before JD Martinez nearly managed the same, knocking Verdugo in on a wall-ball single to left, pushing the lead to 5-0.

But the Rays would not go quietly. Tampa Bay started slowly chipping away at the Boston lead over the next few innings, getting a run on the board in the top of the fifth after an Austin Meadows groundout to Schwarber at 1B scored Jordan Luplow from third. An inning later, with Tanner Houck pitching for the Red Sox, Tampa made it a two-run ballgame thanks to a Wander Franco two-run home run to centerfield.

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The Rays clawed within one when Kevin Kermaier doubled home Mike Zunino with no outs in the top of the eighth inning. One batter later, Randy Arozarena struck again, this time doubling Kermaier home to tie the game at 5-5. Garrett Whitlock came in and stopped the bleeding with a flyout and a pair of groundouts to escape the inning with the score tied.

That set the stage for Hernandez’s heroics, sending Boston to their second ALCS in four years and first since the World Series-winning 2018 squad.

Boston 25′s Butch Stearns caught up with several players after their big win against Tampa. They talked about how Fenway has been electric and how the fans have been incredible.

“Oh, it’s been nuts. I don’t think the fans have sat down once,” Verdugo said. “It seems like every batter, every pitch they’re up yelling, and every out it’s a big deal. The fans [are] out here. The atmosphere has been amazing.”

When Butch asked Verdugo if he feels like a Bostonian now, Verdugo’s response: “Yea, your cousin from Boston over here.”

The Sox have won six straight at home and they say they’ve been feeding off of the crowd’s energy.

“Unbelievable, unbelievable,” said J.D. Martinez. “Shout out to all the fans because you guys have been on your feet for two days straight. I don’t know how you’re doing it. It’s awesome. [In 2018] everybody was hyped. Everybody was pumped, but not like this. I feel this year is just a little bit different.”

That year, the Red Sox eliminated the Astros in five games in the ALCS. This year, they could square off with Houston again if the Astros win one more game against Chicago. If they don’t, the Red Sox and White Sox will face off for the first time in the postseason since 2005, when the eventual World Series-winning White Sox swept Boston in the ALDS, 3-0.

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Some vital pieces of Boston’s last two playoff teams have significant history with both potential opponents. LHP Chris Sale was acquired via trade from Chicago back in the winter of 2016 in exchange for current White Sox Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech, among others. Manager Alex Cora was the Houston bench coach prior to his hiring ahead of the 2018 season. It was there that his role in the Astros’ 2017 sign-stealing scandal led to his year-long suspension in 2020.

Game 1 of the ALCS is slated for Friday night on Boston 25.

Full ALCS schedule:

  • Game 1: Friday, Oct. 15 at Chicago or Houston (Fox)
  • Game 2: Saturday, Oct. 16 at Chicago or Houston (Fox or FS1)
  • Game 3: Monday, Oct. 18 at Boston (FS1)
  • Game 4: Tuesday, Oct. 19 at Boston (FS1)
  • Game 5: Wednesday, Oct. 20 at Boston (FS1)
  • Game 6: Friday, Oct. 22 at Chicago or Houston (FS1)
  • Game 7: Saturday, Oct. 23 at Chicago or Houston (Fox or FS1)

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