St. Petersburg, FL (SportsNetwork.com) - The Boston Red Sox put the final nail in the stubborn Tampa Bay Rays' coffin Tuesday.
Facing their fifth must-win game in a span of 10 days, the Rays led Game 4 of the American League Division Series heading into the seventh inning before the Red Sox rallied and held on for a tense 3-1 victory at Tropicana Field.
Xander Bogaerts scored on a wild pitch by Joel Peralta and Shane Victorino beat out an infield single to knock in Jacoby Ellsbury with the go-ahead run in a two-run seventh inning.
Craig Breslow (1-0) tossed 1 2/3 scoreless innings behind starter Jake Peavy, and Koji Uehara recorded a four-out save to send Boston to its fifth ALCS in the past 11 seasons and first since 2008.
The AL East champs will next play Saturday against the winner of the Tigers- Athletics series, which will be decided on Thursday in Oakland.
Jose Lobaton smacked a walk-off home run against Uehara in Game 3 to keep the die-hard Rays alive, but wild-card winners simply ran out of heroics.
Rays manager Joe Maddon had a short leash with struggling starter Jeremy Hellickson, pulling him in the second with the bases loaded and no outs.
"I hoped (Hellickson) would get through the lineup one time...but we had to do something a little differently," explained Maddon of his unorthodox moves.
Jamey Wright, the first of eight pitchers used out of the Rays bullpen, escaped the jam, and after Boston squandered several more scoring chances, the Rays broke the scoreless tie in the sixth.
Yunel Escobar opened the frame with a screaming line drive off the left-field wall, and David DeJesus, an 11-year veteran playing in his first postseason, delivered an RBI single to right two batters later.
The lead didn't last long.
Jake McGee (0-1), who threw 28 pitches Monday, issued a walk to a pinch- hitting Bogaerts and a two-out single to Ellsbury before being pulled.
Peralta was brought in and promptly uncorked a 59-foot breaking ball that got past Lobaton, allowing Bogaerts to score without a play at the plate. Ellsbury, who was moving on the pitch, advanced to third and raced home with the go-ahead run when Victorino beat out a slow-roller to short.
"The one thing this team has done throughout the course of this is continue to build opportunities," Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "And even though we may come up short at times, it felt like we would still create some."
Breslow struck out the side in the bottom half, and Dustin Pedroia added an insurance run with a sacrifice fly in the ninth.
Uehara wasted little time finishing the series as he set down the side in order in Tampa Bay's final at-bat of its season.
Peavy, in his first postseason start since 2006, lasted 5 2/3 innings and was charged with one run on five hits.
Hellickson's night was over early after throwing eight straight balls and giving up a single to Daniel Nava to start the second.
Wright caught Jarrod Saltalamacchia looking at strike three, then retired Stephen Drew on a sharp line drive that was snared by James Loney at first. Loney's throw to second was low, but Escobar picked it cleanly to complete the much-needed double play.
Matt Moore, who was lit up in a Game 1 loss, was next out of the bullpen after Wright walked Will Middlebrooks to open the third. The left-hander went two innings and struck out Saltalamacchia to leave a pair in the fourth.
Boston again had two on in its next at-bat, only to have Alex Torres induce an inning-ending groundout off the bat of Pedroia.