The Boston Red Sox walked off the top-seeded Tampa Bay Rays for a second straight game to win their American League division series with a thrilling 6-5 victory at Fenway Park on Monday.
Enrique Hernandez’s sacrifice fly in the bottom of the ninth brought home Danny Santana to score the winning run as the Red Sox clinched a 3-1 series victory over last year’s World Series runners up.
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It was a bitter finale for the Rays, who had battled back from a 5-0 deficit to tie the game at 5-5 in the eighth inning.
The Red Sox had roared into the lead in the bottom of the third, with Rafael Devers blasting a two-out three-run homer off Shane McClanahan.
Alex Verdugo then smashed a double off Fenway’s famous Green Monster to score Xander Bogaerts for 4-0 before J.D. Martinez singled to send Verdugo home for a five-run lead.
The Rays’ finally got on the board in the fifth inning when Austin Meadows ground out to score Jordan Luplow and Wander Franco’s two-run homer cut the deficit to 5-3 in the sixth.
The Rays leveled it in the eighth with hits from Kevin Kiermaier and Randy Arozarena.
The Red Sox will play either the Houston Astros or the Chicago White Sox in the AL Championship Series for a place in the World Series.
The Astros lead that series 2-1 and can punch their ticket with victory over the White Sox on Tuesday in game four, which was postponed earlier Monday due to inclement weather in Chicago.
In other playoff action on Monday, Joc Pederson blasted a three-run homer as the Atlanta Braves beat the Milwaukee Brewers 3-0 to take a 2-1 lead in their National League division series.
Pederson’s fifth-inning shot deep into right field off Brewers’ reliever Adrian Houser means Atlanta can now wrap up the series on Tuesday with a home victory in game four at Truist Park.
Braves pitcher Ian Anderson laid the foundation for the win, restricting the Brewers to three hits through five scoreless innings with six strikeouts.
The Braves bullpen then finished the job, shutting down the Brewers bats over the final four innings to seal victory.
It was another clutch home run for Pederson, who was traded to the Braves from the Chicago Cubs in July.
Pederson, who has taken to wearing a string of pearls around his neck during this season’s playoffs, also hit a home run in Friday’s game one loss.
The 29-year-old outfielder, a key member of the Los Angeles Dodgers World Series-winning line-up last season, has hit 11 postseason career home runs, a knack of delivering in the playoffs that has earned the nickname “Joctober”.
“He’s been in these situations a lot,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “That guy’s got no heartbeat at all — it’s like he’s on the playground.
“He’s been in the big moments and been on the big stage and performed and other guys respect that. We’ve enjoyed having him here.”
The winner of the Braves-Brewers series will face either the defending champion Los Angeles Dodgers or the San Francisco Giants in the NLCS.
The Dodgers and Giants were playing in Los Angeles Monday with the series tied at 1-1.