ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — On a night when he was hit by a pitch twice, Shane Victorino delivered the biggest hit of all.
Victorino’s infield single off Joel Peralta capped a two-run seventh inning, and the Boston Red Sox beat the Tampa Bay Rays 3-1 Tuesday night at Tropicana Field to win the best-of-five American League Division Series in four games.
Boston will face the Detroit Tigers or the Oakland A’s in the AL Championship Series beginning at Fenway Park on Saturday. Detroit plays at Oakland in the decisive fifth game of the other ALDS on Thursday.
In their fifth elimination game in 10 games, the Rays finally ran out of escapes, as they were doomed by a costly wild pitch.
The Red Sox were limited to three hits over the first six innings by a committee of Rays pitchers, but they produced three more to score twice in the seventh and take a 2-1 lead. A wild pitch from reliever Joel Peralta was their most potent weapon, however.
Rookie Xander Bogaerts drew a walk in his first postseason plate appearance with one out against Jake McGee, and he moved to third with two outs on a Jacoby Ellsbury single. Peralta entered to face Shane Victorino, but he unleashed a wild pitch that Game 3 hero Jose Lobaton couldn’t corral, scoring Bogaerts and tying the game at 1.
Ellsbury, who was attempting to steal second on the play, raced all the way to third, and he scored to put Boston in front when Victorino nubbed a single to shortstop.
“I knew it was going to be a tough at-bat with Peralta in the game. I haven’t had much success against him,” Victorino said. “I was telling myself, ‘Hey, put this ball in play whatever way you can. Just try to make something happen.’ I came out on the good end, with a broken-bat infield hit. I was able to beat it out.
“That’s the kind of things you look back on and talk about executing and doing the little things and doing whatever it takes to win.”
McGee (0-1) was charged with two runs on a hit and a walk in two-thirds of an inning.
Reliever Craig Breslow (1-0) gave the Red Sox 1 2/3 crucial innings, striking out the side in the bottom of the seventh after Boston took the lead. He allowed one hit and struck out four.
Koji Uehara, who surrendered Lobaton’s game-winning homer with two outs in the bottom of the ninth of Game 3 on Monday, entered with two outs in the eighth and a runner on first Tuesday. He recorded the last four outs to earn the save.
Boston added an insurance run in the ninth on a sacrifice fly by Dustin Pedroia after Fernando Rodney loaded the bases with two walks and a hit batter.
Red Sox starter Jake Peavy, a trade-deadline pickup acquired for these types of games, held the Rays to three hits through the first five innings but was removed after allowing the first run of the game in the sixth.
Yunel Escobar led off the sixth with a double to right and scored with one out on a David Dejesus single to right.
“I look at the way we showed grit in the (elimination) games we won,” Rays second baseman Ben Zobrist said. “We got it done four straight times.”
Peavy allowed a run on five hits in 5 2/3 innings. He struck out five without walking a batter. None of the four Red Sox pitchers issued a walk.
The nine pitchers Tampa Bay used walked a total of eight.
Rays starter Jeremy Hellickson was lifted without recording an out in the second inning, though he did not give up a run.
Rays manager Joe Maddon began churning through his bullpen, matching arms to situations — including using starter Matt Moore for two innings. Maddon’s plan worked to perfection until Bogaerts was inserted as a pinch hitter for Stephen Drew in the eighth, and the Boston rookie had the composure to work back from a 1-2 count to draw a critical walk.
“It was there. It was all there,” Maddon said. “The tipping point might have been the walk to Bogaerts. They throw him up, he had a 1 2 count, we walk him. And that’s pretty much how that whole thing began to roll. And then the wild pitch … That’s what put it in their favor. I thought it was in our abilities.”
NOTES: Boston will play in the ALCS for the fifth time in the 12 seasons. … The Rays set a postseason record by using nine pitchers in a nine-inning games. … Tampa Bay went 5-for-29 (.172) with runners in scoring position in the series. … Ellsbury stole a base in all four games of the series. … Rays RF Wil Myers returned to the lineup a night after being removed in the eighth inning and receiving intravenous fluids for leg cramps. … Victorino was hit by a pitch four times in the series, an ALDS record. He led the AL with 18 HBPs this season. … LF Daniel Nava was caught stealing in the eighth, snapping Boston’s streak at 45 consecutive successful attempts. … All six Boston hits were singles. It was the Red Sox first postseason win without an extra-base hit since Game 1 of the 1986 World Series against the New York Mets.