Last night was a night full of nerves, sweats and nail biting. It was a night full of early groans and then late night quiet yeses, accompanied by silent fist pumps. It was a night where I forced myself to stay awake to the wee hours of the morning to bear witness to another clinching win by the Boston Red Sox. This time, beating the Tampa Bay Rays in four for a trip to the ALCS.
After the tough loss on Monday night, the Red Sox looked like a team determined to not let this series get to a deciding, winner-take-all game five. This game was a seesaw battle of scoreless innings through the first five—and it almost looked like the first team to score was going to win. So it was bad news for the Sox when the Rays struck first with a run in the bottom of the sixth off of Jake Peavy. It happened fast with a lead-off double, a ground out and a single to right. Bam, 1-0 Rays.
I'm not going to lie... I was sort of shitting my pjs at this point. I figured one run was going win this game so I was scared. Not to be outdone, the Red Sox battled back in the top of the seventh inning. Jonny Gomes led off the inning with a fly out to center. But then, in a move uncharacteristic of John Farrell, he lifted his golden boy Stephen Drew for a pinch hitter. It was a surprising yet respected move due to Drew's inability to hit the Rays' fifth pitcher of the night, Jake McGee.
Rookie phenom Xander Bogaerts came in to hit for Drew and showed veteran-like patience at the plate drawing a one out walk. Will Middlebrooks struck out for the second out. Jacoby Ellsbury then singled to right and Bogaerts, who was moving on contact, raced to third base.
The Rays then brought in yet another new pitcher, Joel Peralta, whose first pitch to Shane Victorino skipped away for a wild pitch bringing in Bogaerts for the tying run. Ellsbury, who had been in the process of stealing second, scooted to third on the wild pitch. Victorino then dribbled a grounder to the shortstop who failed to get the Flyin' Hawaiian at first and Ellsbury scored the go ahead run. BAM, 2-1 Sox.
And then the real nail biting started. At one point I really thought I was going to gnaw my fingers right down to the first knuckle. I was a mess. The Red Sox needed nine outs for the win... NINE OUTS to oust that smug group of Florida douche nuggets. Craig Breslow, who had entered the game in the bottom of the seventh, struck out four straight Rays. Junichi Tazawa struck out the two batters he faced.
The Sox added an insurance run in the top of the ninth when Fernando Rodney and his stupid, STUPID crooked hat had a complete implosion and walked two batters, then hit Victorino to load the bases. Another pitching change because Joe Maddon must've decided earlier in the day he was going to use every pitcher in the bullpen. It didn't work... Dustin Pedroia lifted the second pitch he saw to right field and Bogaerts scored on the sac fly. BAM, BAM... Sox up 3-1 with just three outs to go!
Then there was Koji... would he still be affected by his losing effort on Monday? The answer to that question was a resounding no. He set down the Rays in order, awesomely striking out Even Longoria to end the game and send the Red Sox back to the ALCS to continue their quest for the ultimate redemption.