2021 American League Division Series 1

From BR Bullpen

2021 American League Division Series
Boston Red Sox logo
2021 American League Division Series logo
Tampa Bay Rays logo
Boston Red Sox
92 - 70 in the AL
3 - 1
Series Summary
Tampa Bay Rays
100-62 in the AL

Overview[edit]

The Teams[edit]

Rays

Red Sox'


Umpires[edit]

C.B. Bucknor, Fieldin Culbreth, Chris Guccione and Adrian Johnson served as the replay officials.

Series results[edit]

Game Score Date Starters Time (ET)
1 Boston Red Sox 0 Tampa Bay Rays 5 October 7 Eduardo Rodriguez (0-1) Shane McClanahan (1-0) 8:05 pm
2 Boston Red Sox 14 Tampa Bay Rays 6 October 8 Chris Sale (0-0) Shane Baz (0-0) 7:05 pm
3 Tampa Bay Rays 4 Boston Red Sox 6 October 10 Drew Rasmussen (0-0) Nathan Eovaldi (0-0) 4:05 pm
4 Tampa Bay Rays 5 Boston Red Sox 6 October 11 Collin McHugh (0-1) Eduardo Rodriguez (0-1) 7:07 pm

Results[edit]

Game 1 @ Tropicana Field[edit]

Team 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Red Sox 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 9 0
Rays 2 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 x 5 6 1
WP: Shane McClanahan (1-0); LP: Eduardo Rodriguez (0-1)
Home Runs: TB - Nelson Cruz (1), Randy Arozarena (1)
  • Attendance: 27,419

The outcome of Game 1 was almost never in doubt, as the Rays scored first and then added an insurance run every other inning to end up 5-0 winners over the Red Sox. Rookie Shane McClanahan looked like a polished veteran on the mound, giving his manager five innings of scoreless ball and never losing his cool in spite of allowing a few baserunners, before three relievers held Boston in check over the final four innings, as the Red Sox did not hit a single extra-base hit during the game. In contrast, Eduardo Rodriguez appeared to be out of sorts from the first batter he faced, and he was removed as soon as he had gone once through the batting order, as he was obviously not fooling anyone with his pitches.

One of the few times the Red Sox appeared menacing was in the top of the 1st, when Kyle Schwarber hit a one-out single off McClanahan, then stole second base as Xander Bogaerts struck out for the second out. However, Rafael Devers struck out as well, and that was the end of that. Tampa Bay then immediately got to work on Rodriguez, as today's hero and a familiar face to anyone who had paid attention to last year's postseason, Randy Arozarena, drew a lead-off walk. Rookie Wander Franco followed by hitting a ball to the gap in left center, and a slight bobble by CF Kiké Hernandez was all Arozarena needed to race all the way around the bases and slide across home plate in a puff of white chalk for the first run. Franco made it to second and was credited with an RBI double, then moved to third base on a fly ball by Nelson Cruz that represented the second out. Yandy Diaz hit a soft grounder down the third base line, and even though 3B Devers did not lose any time and made a good throw to first base, Diaz, diving head-first in spite of this being unnecessary, beat his throw, allowing Franco to score a second run. That early lead would hold all the way.

Boston had a chance to get back into the game immediately as it put its first two men on base in the top of the 2nd, on a very hard single by Hunter Renfroe that banged against the fence in left field, and an error by 2B Brandon Lowe that allowed Alex Verdugo to reach as well. But Bobby Dalbec then grounded into a double play started by Lowe, and Christian Vazquez flied out to center to end the inning. Rodriguez continued to labor in the second, walking the lead-off hitter, Manuel Margot, and then needing a lot of pitches to dispose of Mike Zunino and Kevin Kiermaier. It was obvious to everyone that he just did not have it that day, and manager Alex Cora decided to pull the plug while the game was still not out of reach and before Tampa's batters could have a second crack at his starter. But he would need a lengthy and strong performance by his bullpen, with possible consequences in future games. Garrett Richards came in to force Arozarena to ground out, but Nick Pivetta, normally a starter, was already warming up, ready to come in to start the 3rd to take a long relay. He did just that after his teammates went down 1-2-3 in the top of the 3rd, but after two outs, Cruz hit a long and very high fly ball that looked like an obvious homer before it fell down in the outfield. There was some brief confusion before the umpires pointed out the ball had hit one of the catwalks suspended from Tropicana Field's roof, and under the ground rules peculiar to that barn passing itself off as a ballpark, it was indeed a homer. Cruz resumed and completed his trot around the bases, and it was 3-0.

The Red Sox got another chance in the 4th, but again failed to capitalize as Devers and Verdugo both singled with one and two outs, respectively. Dalbec came up again and lined a scorcher towards left field, but 3B Diaz was perfectly positioned to make the catch and the inning ended. Pivetta got the Rays out in order in the bottom of the inning, but Boston stranded another runner in the 5th. In the bottom of the inning, Pivetta was ambushed by lead-off hitter Arozarena who hit a no-doubt homer to deep left, and stood to admire his work before making his way slowly around the diamond. He would have another opportunity to display his considerable speed later on, anyway. With a 4-0 lead after 5 innings, McClanahan gave way to a first reliever, J.T. Chargois and Tampa made a couple of defensive changes, a sign that Kevin Cash felt he now had a comfortable lead. A lead-off single by Xander Bogaerts was erased on a double play grounder by Renfroe, and Pivetta pitched another solid inning, his fourth. In spite of the two solo homers, he was giving it a good effort, as a short outing by him could have spelled disaster for the entire pitching staff. In any case, the Red Sox went down in order against David Robertson in the 7th, and Arozarena then put an exclamation mark on what was already a great day. He drew a two-out walk off Pivetta, who had retired everyone in order since his 5th-inning blast, then moved to third on a double by Franco. Cora then brought in lefty Josh Taylor to face Lowe, and with the defense in a pronounced rightward shift, Arozarena could take a huge lead off third base, with Taylor's back turned to him. After a couple of pitches, he timed Taylor's delivery perfectly and pulled off a straight steal of home to make it 5-0, adding one more chapter to his legend. Lowe flied out to shallow right to end the inning on a ball that 2B Christian Arroyo lost briefly in the lights and almost dropped.

With J.P. Feyereisen now pitching, Boston actually loaded the bases in the top of the 8th, with three more singles, by Arroyo, Schwarber and Bogaerts, but no one took an extra base and Feyereisen got out of the jam by striking out Devers and getting Renfroe to pop out to first base. It was still 5-0 with just one turn at bat left. Adam Ottavino retired the Rays in order in the 8th, and Feyereisen returned for a second inning of work. This time there was no drama, real or potential: he struck out Verdugo, got Dalbec to pop up to the catcher, and Vazquez to fly out to right to end the game.

Game 2 @ Tropicana Field[edit]

Team 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Red Sox 2 0 2 0 4 0 1 2 3 14 20 0
Rays 5 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 6 8 0
WP: Tanner Houck (1-0); LP: Collin McHugh (0-1)
Home Runs: TB - Jordan Luplow (1), Ji-Man Choi (1); BOS - Xander Bogaerts (1), Alex Verdugo (1), Kiké Hernandez (1), J.D. Martinez (1), Rafael Devers (1)
  • Attendance: 37,616

What a difference a day makes! After being shut out and held without an extra-base hit in Game 1, the Red Sox exploded for 20 hits, including 4 doubles and 5 homers, and 14 runs in Game 2, to take the win and even up the series. But it was far from easy, as they needed a second very long relief stint to remain in the game after another shaky performance by their starter, this time Chris Sale. For their part, the Rays tried to repeat the formula used successfully in Game 1: starting a rookie pitcher and score a few runs early; they even started the exact same line-up as in Game 1, something almost unheard of for a team known to cycle players in and out of the starting line-up all the time. However, Shane Baz, making just his fourth start as a major leaguer, was unable to hold the lead handed him after one inning, and was kicked out early, but for once, Tampa's vaunted crew of relievers failed to do its job, letting the Red Sox not only come back, but then build a huge lead. All and all, it was a wild game.

Boston started off by getting its first two batters on base against a nervous Baz, with Kyle Schwarber drawing a walk and Kiké Hernandez starting what would be an outstanding game with a double. Baz struck out Rafael Devers for a first out, but Xander Bogaerts singled to right for a first run and Alex Verdugo followed with another single for a 2-0 lead, then J.D. Martinez, back in the line-up after missing the previous two postseason games with a sprained ankle, hit another single to load the bases. J.T. Chargois was starting to warm up in the bullpen when Baz induced Hunter Renfroe to ground into a double play. The inning could have been a disaster for the Rays, and they were glad to be only down by two runs. They then quickly got to work on Chris Sale in their first turn at bat. Randy Arozarena - who else? - led off with a single, followed by Wander Franco, with both connecting on Sale's first pitch. Sale struck out Brandon Lowe on a full count, but then walked Nelson Cruz on four straight pitches to load the bases. It was clear that the veteran lefthander was not on a good day. He then gave up a single to Yandy Diaz that netted a run, bringing up 1B Jordan Luplow, one of the many lesser known interchangeable parts on the team, only inserted against lefthanders. He justified Kevin Cash's confidence by hitting a long homer to left field for his first career grand slam, giving Tampa a 5-2 lead. Sale then retired the next two batters, but everyone's head was spinning after that wild inning which featured more runs than Game 1 in its entirety.

Baz settled down, relatively speaking, in tossing a scoreless 2nd inning, but it still featured a lead-off single by Christian Vazquez and a passed ball by C Mike Zunino that put him on third base with two outs before Hernandez grounded out to end the inning - the only time he would make an out all evening. Alex Cora then made a major decision, taking Sale out of the game after one shaky inning, and bringing in his mirror-image clone, rookie Tanner Houck. Contrary to Sale, Houck was on a good day, and began to mystify Tampa's hitters with his sidearm fastballs and sliders, setting them down in order. With one out in the 3rd, Bogaerts hit a homer to left, and that was enough for Cash, who replaced Baz with veteran left-hander Collin McHugh. But the first batter to face him, Verdugo, homered as well, and suddenly it was a one-run game. The game settled down for a spell, with Houck making it six straight outs, and McHugh five straight following Verdugo's homer, and meanwhile Cash replaced Luplow, author of the grand slam, with Ji-Man Choi, figuring there were no more lefthanded pitchers coming in this game. In any case, that temporary calm was broken in the top of the 5th when Hernandez led off with a homer to left that tied the score. Devers then drew a walk and that was the end for McHugh, replaced by another one-time journeyman who had found success in Tampa's bullpen, Matt Wisler. He failed to calm the brewing storm, allowing a single to Bogaerts to put a second man on base. After retiring Verdugo, he gave Martinez a pitch to his liking, and the master run producer sent it flying beyond the centerfield fence for a three-run homer. Suddenly, Boston was in the lead, 8-5.

Wander Franco finally broke Houck's string of consecutive outs with a two-out single in the bottom of the 5th, but he was stranded. David Robertson pitched the 6th for Tampa and he put two men on base after two outs, including another double by Hernandez that barely missed clearing the fence, before getting Bogaerts to pop up to end the inning. It seemed that the Red Sox were on to any pitcher the Rays were now sending in, and the next few innings would confirm this. But before that, with two outs, Choi hit a home run that barely cleared the fence in left (it took a video review to confirm that the fan who caught it had done so above the yellow line marking the top of the wall) to bring Tampa within two runs, 8-6. it was still very much a game, but the Red Sox were far from done. They took that run back in the 7th against Michael Wacha on singles by Verdugo and Martinez, a double play grounder by Renfroe - who seemed to be the only batter not invited to the Boston Hit Party - and a single down the first base line by Vazquez. Ryan Brasier then struck out the side after Houck's outstanding five-inning outing, and it seemed like the Rays' batters were now only going through the motions. In his second inning of work in the 8th, Wacha gave up two more runs, as Hernandez hit his third double - to go with his homer - and Devers followed with Boston's fifth long ball of the game. Hansel Robles pitched the bottom of the 8th for Boston, then Wacha, obviously taking one for the team, was touched for three more runs in the 9th, making the score 14-6. Even Renfroe got a hit in that inning, and Hernandez ended his day with a two-run single. Cash mercifully removed Wacha at that point and brought in Chargois, who had been warming up way back in the 1st inning, to record the final out. The lead was large enough for Cora to use Matt Barnes, his former closer just coming off the injured list and added to the roster before this game in place of an injured Garrett Richards, to pitch the final inning. It wasn't clean, as he gave up a single and a pair of walks, but Tampa did not score, and were down by 8 runs in any case, so Barnes was never in real danger. The two teams would head to Fenway Park all tied up.

Game 3 @ Fenway Park[edit]

Team 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 R H E
Rays 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 0 0 0 0 0 4 10 0
Red Sox 1 0 2 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 6 15 1
WP: Nick Pivetta (1-0); LP: Luis Patino (0-1)
Home Runs: TB - Austin Meadows (1), Wander Franco (1); BOS - Kyle Schwarber (1), Kiké Hernandez (2), Christian Vazquez (1)
  • Attendance: 37,224

Game 3 was nothing short of epic, a classic at Fenway Park in which both teams laid everything on the line in order to win the pivotal game, and the Red Sox emerged as 6-4 winners after 13 innings and more than five hours of great baseball, on a walk-off homer into the Green Monster seats. For the third straight game, the Rays sent an unproven youngster to the mound, this time with Drew Rasmussen, a second-year man whose ten career starts had all come in the final two months of the season; however he had pitched quite well in that span with a 4-0 record and an ERA of 2.44. Still it was a marked contrast to battle-tested veteran Nathan Eovaldi who started for Boston, fresh off a win in the Wild Card Game, and one of the heroes of their most recent World Series conquest, in 2018. The Red Sox desperately needed some length from Eovaldi, after Eduardo Rodriguez and Chris Sale had both made early exits in the first two games; Tampa was more flexible, with its bullpen relatively rested.

The Rays got off to a great start as their second batter, Wander Franco hit a single to right and Austin Meadows, starting for the first time with a righthander on the mound, homered to right-center for a 2-0 lead. But Boston replied immediately, with lead-off hitter Kyle Schwarber going deep on Rasmussen's second pitch to narrow the lead to 2-1. Eovaldi had struck out the side apart from the two hits, and he was very good for the rest of his outing, getting another three Ks in the 2nd and eventually logging 8 strikeouts over 5 innings while allowing no more runs. He had a 3-2 lead when he left, courtesy of a big 3rd inning by the Red Sox. Christian Arroyo and Schwarber led off with consecutive singles off Rasmussen and the scorching hot Kiké Hernandez followed with another single, that tied the game and chased Rasmussen. The next pitcher was Josh Fleming, who gave up a fourth straight single, this one to Rafael Devers, to put Boston ahead. Fleming managed to get the next two outs and Andrew Kittredge the final one, but the Red Sox continued to put a lot of pressure on Tampa's relievers. They had two more hits in the 4th, although a double play ball saved Kittredge, and in the bottom of the 5th, Hernandez chased him with his second homer of the series to make it 4-2. At this point, in his last 9 at-bats, Hernandez had hit two homers, three doubles, and three singles for an incredible stretch of dominance. Peter Fairbanks completed the inning, but not without issuing a walk and having Alex Verdugo reach scoring position on a passed ball. Josh Taylor and Ryan Brasier handled the 6th for Boston, who again put a runner in scoring position in the bottom of the inning, this time against J.P. Feyereisen, with a lead-off single by Hunter Renfroe and a sacrifice bunt by Christian Vazquez, pinch-hitting for Kevin Plawecki (this game really had everything). Renfroe was stranded however, and by this point, both managers were burning through their bench and their bullpen as if there was no tomorrow, as both realized how crucial it was to win this particular game. So Alex Cora used lefty Austin Davis to get only one out to end the 7th, even though there were other lefties scheduled to come to bat in the 8th. Before that, Matt Wisler pitched the 7th for Tampa, and was their first pitcher to record a 1-2-3 inning.

Heading into the 8th, the Red Sox had only a 4-2 lead, even if it felt bigger as they had really been dominant ever since the 1st-inning glitch that was Meadows' two-run homer. Both teams were deep into their reserves, as Hansel Robles was the fifth pitcher for Boston, while Tampa had already used six. In any case this was the inning in which this game turned from an interesting one into a classic, in which fans would not leave the edge of their seats for the final two hours of play. Robles coughed up a gopher ball to Franco, whose national coming-out party was a raving success thus far, and Meadows followed with a double. Robles managed to get Nelson Cruz to ground out, but Meadows advanced to third, where he was replaced by the speedier Manuel Margot. Robles managed to strike out Yandy Diaz for the second out but Arozarena, never missing a chance to shine, doubled to left to tie the game as Hernandez, playing center, dove in vain to try to catch the liner on the fly and almost hurt himself in the process. There was another strange aspect to tha play, as Arozarena was accidentally tripped by 1B Schwarber after he rounded first base, and fell to the ground, but the umpires did not rule that there was any obstruction as the runner was not going to be headed for third base in any case. In to pitch came rookie Garrett Whitlock, who had become Boston's closer by default, and after an intentional walk to Kevin Kiermaier, he struck out Mike Zunino to end the inning. With tension at its highest, J.T. Chargois replaced Wisler with one out. He was pitching in his third straight game, a sign that Cash was starting to run out of better options on the mound. He walked Renfroe, but otherwise escaped, and in the 9th Whitlock retired the Rays in order. Schwarber then hit a one-out single in the bottom of the inning and gave way to pinch-runner Bobby Dalbec with Hernandez coming up, but he was temporarily out of big hits as he struck out, and Devers followed with a ground out. Extra innings would be needed - and contrary to the regular season, theres was no tiebreaker or designated runner in effect.

Cora decided to roll the dice and brought in Nick Pivetta, fresh off an excellent long stretch of relief pitching in Game 1 and his likely Game 4 starter, to pitch for what could turn out to be an extended stint. He got three outs thanks to a baserunning mistake by Margot, who singled, then with two outs, attempted to steal second, made it easily, but overran the base, his foot losing contact with the bag by about half an inch, but enough for Arroyo to tag him out. For Tampa, David Robertson came to pitch, and like Chargois, he was making his third appearance in three games. He also escaped the inning in spite of allowing a hit, a single by Verdugo, when J.D. Martinez hit a ball to one of the deepest parts of the ballpark, the left-center field corner, where Kiermaier caught it just in front of the fence; just about everyone in the ballpark thought the ball was gone when Martinez hit it, and it probably would have been in any other ballpark. So the game continued. In the 11th, Pivetta walked Arozarena, then struck out the next three batters with some very nasty pitches, then Robertson, clearly pushed to his limits, gave up a one-out double to Arroyo, but then managed to strike out an over-eager Dalbec, and to get Hernandez to ground out to SS Franco who had to reach far to his right to make the play. On to the 12th... Pivetta got two more strikeouts in retiring the Rays in order, and Cash, out of relievers, sent his Game 4 starter to pitch in Luis Patino. It looked like a brilliant move at first, as Patino needed just six pitches to retire the three Red Sox hitters and looked like he had a ton of gas left in the tank.

The 13th inning will be remembered and discussed for a long time. Now working his fourth inning, the pride of Victoria, BC, Pivetta, struck out Cruz, then allowed a single to Diaz. Arozarena, for once, failed in his mission by lining out to left, Verdugo making a nice running catch. Next up was Kiermaier, who drove a ball to right field, where it hit the fence, bounced back to hit Renfroe's right thigh and hop the fence, landing out of play. Diaz was running on the play, and had the ball stayed in bounds, he would have scored easily. Had the ball cleanly hopped the wall, it would have been an automatic double, no questions asked, but now there was some confusion. The umpires conferred, a video review was called for, and they eventually ruled that it was indeed an automatic double in accordance with the rules, as the ball had been accidentally deflected out of play and not ended up there as the result of a throw. Crew chief Sam Holbrook quoted the relevant rule in a press conference after the game: "If a fair ball not in flight is deflected by a fielder and goes out of play, the award is two bases from the time of the pitch", and the ball was no longer in flight as soon as it hit the wall. So Diaz was stopped on third base and Kiermaier on second, no matter that the two would likely each have ended up one base further under normal circumstances. Given a reprieve, Pivetta faced Zunino and struck him out swinging. It was 7th K, and the 20th for Boston's pitchers, as Tampa's penchant for swinging sometimes a bit too wildly had bit them hard in this game. Having narrowly escaped, the Red Sox would finally cash in a chance to score. Patino no longer looked unhittable: he did get leadoff hitter Martinez to fly out center, but Renfroe drew a walk after a protracted ten-pitch battle and up came Vazquez. On Patino's first pitch, he lifted a ball up into the Green Monster seats in left. He knew he had made good contact as soon as the ball left his bat, and he stood next to home plate to admire the ball's flight, then bounced all the way around the bases as he was mobbed by teammates, knowing he had just hit a home run that would be remembered for a long, long time.

Game 4 @ Fenway Park[edit]

Team 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Rays 0 0 0 0 1 2 0 2 0 5 7 1
Red Sox 0 0 5 0 0 0 0 0 1 6 12 0
WP: Garrett Whitlock (1-0); LP: J.P. Feyereisen (0-1)
Home Runs: BOS - Rafael Devers (2); TB - Wander Franco (2)
  • Attendance: 38,447

The Boston Red Sox completed their upset of the Tampa Bay Rays with a second consecutive walk-off victory in Game 4, although this one only went the regulation 9 innings. The biggest question coming into the game would be who would pitch, given how much toll Game 3 had taken on both pitching staffs, and the fact neither team had a lot of dependable starters at the ready. Boston decided to tap Game 1 starter Eduardo Rodriguez again, figuring he hadn't thrown many pitches before getting a quick hook in that game, and could not possibly pitch any worse; the Rays, for their part, went to a true and tried strategy - from their perspective - asking veteran Collin McHugh to act as an opener, with the following innings likely already planned in advance by the top brass.

Both starters did well in the early innings, with Rodriguez recording six outs in order, and McHugh only allowing one hit while needing very few pitches. To start the 3rd, LF Austin Meadows, in the starting line-up in spite of the presence of a lefthander on the mound, got locked in a tremendous one-on-one battle with Rodriguez, fouling off pitch after pitch on a full count, while Rodriguez used every pitch in his arsenal, and never missed the strike zone. One got the feeling that whoever emerged victorious from that battle would get a huge psychological boost, and in the end it was Rodriguez, who struck out Meadows on an off-speed pitch with his 17th offering of the at-bat. And indeed, he needed just three more pitches to record the next two outs. Now Tampa Bay did a very Tampa Bay thing, rolling out its spreadsheet and removing McHugh in obedience to a pre-planned strategy that did not have any room for the possibility that the veteran, who had plenty of experience and success as a real starting pitcher, could possibly be on a particularly good day. He likely could have given his team two or three more quality innings, but, the script said that it was time to bring in someone else, so someone else came in. To the Rays' defence, that type of inflexible management by spreadsheet had been very successful for them over the last two regular seasons, and all of their pitchers knew that they could be used in any situation at any time, but it had also led to the controversial early removal of a dealing Blake Snell in the last game of the 2020 World Series, with disastrous consequences, and it led to another implosion today. Game 1 starter Shane McClanahan was asked to come in in relief of McHugh, and simply put, he just did not have it on this day. Christian Vazquez led off with a single, then, after one out, he walked Kyle Schwarber. Kiké Hernandez flied out to left for the second out, but Rafael Devers then tagged McClanahan for a long homer to center field, and it was 3-0 for Boston. And it didn't end there. Next up was Xander Bogaerts who singled to left, followed by Alex Verdugo who doubled to left for another run, and J.D. Martinez who singled to make it 5-0. Kevin Cash removed McClanahan at this point and brought in J.T. Chargois, but the damage had been done. The Red Sox would have added another run were it not for Martinez's balky ankle, as Hunter Renfroe then crushed a pitch against the Green Monster in left, and any other baserunner would have sprinted home. That missed opportunity would eventually cost Boston, but for now, after Vazquez struck out in his second at-bat of the inning, they had a 5-0 lead and were firmly in command.

McClanahan was really upset with his performance and took his anger on an innocent chair, and for a short spell the Rays seemed completely out of it, but then they went to work. Randy Arozarena led off the 4th with a single, but could not advance even to second base as Rodriguez kept mowing 'em down. But the Rays' next few relievers also stopped the bleeding. First up, Andrew Kittredge pitched a perfect 4th, then in the 5th, Rodriguez finally gave up a run on a lead-off double by Jordan Luplow, who then beat Hernandez's throw to third on a fly out by Yandy Diaz and then scored on a ground ball by Meadows. Kittredge pitched a second straight 1-2-3 inning, and in the 6th, the Rays got back two more runs. It started with another lead-off double, this one by Kevin Kiermaier, which ended Rodriguez's day. Tanner Houck replaced him, but he was not as sharp as in Game 2. He got Arozarena to fly out, and in a repeat of the previous inning, Kiermaier advanced to third, but Wander Franco followed not with a ground out but with a homer to center field. At 5-3, it was a game again. Luis Patino took over on the mound and did not allow a run in the bottom of the 6th, in spite of a lead-off single by Martinez, then Josh Taylor took care of the top of the 7th for Boston. In the bottom of the inning, against Josh Fleming, the Red Sox had a chance to add an insurance run, as Hernandez and Devers hit singles with one out, placing runners on the corners, but Pete Fairbanks induced Bogaerts to ground into an inning-ending double play.

The Red Sox had been cruising since their big inning in the 3rd, but suddenly, the Rays tied the game against the normally reliable Ryan Brasier in the 8th. There used to be a saying, back in the days when pitching staffs were smaller, that you did not want to use too many pitchers in a game because you were bound to find one who did not have it at all that day; for Tampa, that had been McClanahan, and for Boston, it was Brasier. He allowed a lead-off double to Mike Zunino - the third time in four innings that the Rays had started off an inning with a double - and Kiermaier followed with another double to make it 5-4. Next up was Arozarena, who singled to right, and then took second on a poor throw by Renfroe, who had no chance of gunning down the speedy Kiermaier at home and should instead have concentrated on keeping Arozarena on first base. So now, the game was tied, and the go-ahead run was in scoring position, with still no one out. Fenway Park had suddenly gone eerily quiet as Alex Cora summoned his best reliever, Garrett Whitlock, from the bullpen. The rookie was absolutely outstanding: he needed but eight pitches to get the next three outs, as Arozarena was unable to advance even one base. Boston then threatened immediately as Verdugo hit a grounder on which SS Franco had to move quite a bit to his left, and then for once in this series he made a poor play, attempting a no-hope throw to first base that was completely off target and allowed Verdugo to take second. Martinez was out on a shallow fly to right, but Renfroe hit a deeper one, to right center. Kiermaier signaled Arozarena to move out of the way, made the catch and then unleashed a bullet to 3B Diaz. It was slightly off-line, but Diaz caught it and then made a diving tag to retire Verdugo, a play that required a video review. This great play could have given the Rays some momentum, but Whitlock was absolutely nasty on this day: this time he needed just seven pitches to retire the Rays in order in the top of the 9th!

So this brought us to the bottom of the 9th. J.P. Feyereisen came out as the Rays' eighth pitcher, as once again, like in Game 3, they were running out of viable options. Vazquez, yesterday's hero, led off with a single to left that went just under the glove of a diving Diaz at third base. Surprisingly, Cora did not immediately call for a pinch-runner, asking instead for Christian Arroyo to lay down a sacrifice bunt. He did so perfectly, down the first base line. By the time Feyereisen picked up the ball, Vazquez was only a couple of steps from second base, so the only play was to throw to 2B Brandon Lowe, who was covering the first base bag. The runner was now in scoring position, with Bobby Dalbec, who had come in as a defensive replacement for Schwarber, due up next. Dalbec was known for having one of the highest strikeout rates in the game, and Cora wanted someone who could put the ball in play, so, Dalbec's raw power notwithstanding, he called on Travis Shaw to pinch hit. After a long battle with Feyereisen, he hit a grounder to third, and Diaz made a desperate throw to first base that Ji-Man Choi was lucky to stop with his chest; had it gone past him, Vazquez would have scored. The situation was now almost desperate for the Rays, with runners on first and third, and still just one out. Now Cora called for a pinch-runner, bringing in Danny Santana to run at third base. Kevin Cash asked his infielders to play in, meaning no one was holding Shaw at first base, so he immediately took off for second on the first pitch to Hernandez, taking the double play out of the equation. It turned out to be moot, as on the next pitch, Hernandez hit a ball to deep left, and everyone knew as soon as it left the bat that the series was over. It did not bang against the Green Monster but was caught by Meadows, but there was absolutely no way he was going to nail down Santana from the warning track, and his throw was just pro forma as the Red Sox were already celebrating before Santana had even crossed the plate. It was the second straight walk-off win for the Sox, and they became the first team to accomplish that in the postseason since the 2004 edition of themselves, as part of their comeback from being down three games to one to the New York Yankees.

Further Reading[edit]

  • Mandy Bell: "Rays know they've 'got a great thing going': Disappointing finish to '21 won't be end of story for deep, youthful club", mlb.com, October 12, 2021. [1]
  • Adam Berry: "Rays Way: How the AL's best team was built", mlb.com, October 6, 2021. [2]
  • Ian Browne: "Hernández walks off underdog Sox to ALCS: Cora: 'Not too many people gave us a chance from the get-go'", mlb.com, October 12, 2021. [3]
  • Ian Browne: "Cora's managerial mastery lifts Sox into ALCS: Verdugo on skipper: 'He's playing chess ... the other team's playing checkers'", mlb.com, October 12, 2021. [4]
  • Anthony Castrovince: "Red Sox-Rays position-by-position analysis", mlb.com, October 6, 2021. [5]
  • Zach Crizer: "Red Sox walk off for second straight night, eliminate Rays to reach ALCS", Yahoo! Sports, October 11, 2021. [6]
  • Bryan Hoch: "5 reasons Red Sox prevailed over Rays", mlb.com, October 12, 2021. [7]
  • Ken Powtak (Associated Press): "Rays' remarkable season comes to sudden end at Fenway Park", Yahoo! Sports, October 11, 2021. [8]

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