ST PETERSBURG, Florida // The Boston Red Sox advanced to the American League championship series with a 3-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday, while the Detroit Tigers forced a decisive fifth game in their series with an 8-6 win over the Oakland Athletics.
Shane Victorino’s infield single broke a seventh-inning deadlock and journeyman Craig Breslow gave Boston a huge boost out of the bullpen as the Red Sox rebounded to win the best-of-five play-off 3-1.
Koji Uehara got the final four outs – one night after giving up a game-winning homer.
Back in the ALCS for the first time in five years, Boston open at home on Saturday against the Athletics or Tigers. Oakland host Detroit in a decisive Game 5 on Thursday.
Both managers mixed and matched all night in a tense game that felt more like a chess match. Desperately trying to avoid elimination, Joe Maddon, the Rays captain, used nine pitchers.
Breslow relieved Jake Peavy, the Boston starter, in the sixth and struck out his first four batters – all of them in the middle of Tampa Bay’s line-up.
Xander Bogaerts scored the leveling run on Joel Peralta’s wild pitch in the seventh and Victorino followed with an RBI infield single. Dustin Pedroia drove in Bogaerts with a sacrifice fly in the ninth to make it 3-1, and Uehara struck out Evan Longoria to end it.
On a night of desperation, dispute and finally, delirium, the Detroit Tigers are heading back to California with the help of Max Scherzer and some fans in right field.
Playing catch-up most of the way, the Tigers drew level first with Jhonny Peralta’s three-run homer in the fifth inning and then on Martinez’s solo shot in the seventh. A couple of fans tried to catch Martinez’s drive, and at least one of them bobbled the ball as he reached over the railing above the wall – preventing right fielder Josh Reddick from having any chance at a leaping grab.
Reddick and centre fielder Coco Crisp immediately protested, pointing up at the stands in the hope of a fan-interference call. But umpires upheld the home run after a replay review.
Max Scherzer struck out Reddick and Stephen Vogt before getting pinch-hitter Alberto Callaspo to line out to centre.
Detroit, which had no hits through the first four innings, added three runs in the eighth on a wild pitch and a two-run double by Omar Infante that made it 8-4.
Yoenis Cespedes hit a two-run single in the ninth, bringing the potential tying run to the plate, but Joaquin Benoit struck out Seth Smith to end it.
The Tigers can now send Justin Verlander to the mound for Game 5 on Thursday night in Oakland. Verlander shut out the As in Oakland in the decisive fifth game of the division series last year.
Oakland have not announced a starter for Game 5.