BOSTON — Enrique Hernandez hit a walk-off sacrifice fly in the ninth inning as the Boston Red Sox eliminated the Tampa Bay Rays with a 6-5 victory in Game 4 of the American League Division Series on Monday, punching their ticket to the AL Championship Series.
Christian Vazquez led off bottom of the ninth with a single and advanced to second on Christian Arroyo’s sacrifice bunt. Pinch hitter Travis Shaw reached on an infield single before pinch runner Danny Santana easily scored from third on Hernandez’s sac fly to left against Rays reliever J.P. Feyereisen (0-1).
Boston will face the winner of the other AL Division Series between the Houston Astros and Chicago White Sox in the AL Championship Series. Game 4 of that series is set for Tuesday afternoon after the contest was postponed due to the weather in Chicago on Monday. Houston leads the series 2-1.
The Red Sox are headed back to the ALCS for the first time since winning their ninth World Series title in 2018.
“Not too many people gave us a chance from the get-go, but we believe,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said. “For how bad it looked sometimes, we’re still here. We’re still in the dance, we’re still in the tournament. We’re moving on to the ALCS.”
Rafael Devers hit a three-run homer in the Red Sox’s five-run third inning. Alex Verdugo had an RBI double and J.D. Martinez added an RBI single in the inning.
Garrett Whitlock (1-0) earned the win after two scoreless innings of relief. Red Sox starter Eduardo Rodriguez tossed five-plus innings and allowed two runs on three hits with no walks and six strikeouts.
Whitlock said, “Just after we won, I took a second just to kind of step back, look at the crowd. It was a lot of fun to soak everything up and just enjoy the moment.”
Wander Franco had a two-run shot for his second homer in as many games for Tampa Bay, which overcame a 5-0 deficit. Austin Meadows, Kevin Kiermaier and Randy Arozarena each drove in a run for the Rays.
“Even when we got down 5-0, I just tried to keep telling everyone just have that calm energy. We’re going to be OK,” Kiermaier said. “(We) put another great comeback together — something we’ve done several times throughout the year. But they rallied there in the ninth and did what they had to do to win the game.”
Tampa Bay’s only victory in the series was a 5-0 win at home in Game 1 on Thursday. The Rays won a franchise-record 100 games during the regular season to claim their second straight AL East title and fourth overall.
“There’s no doubt there’s disappointment,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “Very proud of what was accomplished in the regular season, but we had high aspirations to get deep in this thing. We ran into a Red Sox team that just beat us.”
Rays opener Collin McHugh tossed two scoreless innings before Game 1 winner Shane McClanahan allowed all five runs in the third while recording just two outs.
Meadows’ groundout in the fifth plated the Rays’ first run before Franco’s homer in the sixth made it 5-3. Kiermaier’s RBI double and Arozarena’s ensuing RBI single tied it in the eighth.
–By Gethin Coolbaugh, Field Level Media