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There’s still more drama to come, but resilient Red Sox found a way to continue ride into postseason

Rafael Devers celebrates his two-run home run in the ninth inning, which helped the Red Sox wrap up a wild card berth.Greg Fiume/Getty

WASHINGTON — Mistakes were made. It looked bleak when the Red Sox fell behind by four runs and manager Alex Cora had to use several players seemingly unfit for such high stakes.

Nothing came easy. The final game of the regular season Sunday followed the same grueling script Red Sox fans have been watching play out for months.

Maybe that explains how the resilient Sox found a way to beat the Washington Nationals, 7-5, and advance to the American League playoffs.

Rafael Devers drove in four runs, the final two with a home run in the top of the ninth inning that sailed 447 feet to center field and crashed into the Nationals logo beyond the fence.


Now comes the real drama. The Sox face the Yankees at Fenway Park on Tuesday night in the Wild Card Game. The winner advances to play the Tampa Bay Rays on Thursday in the Division Series, the loser goes home for the winter.

“It’s going to be nuts,” left fielder Alex Verdugo said.

The Red Sox posed for a team photo in Washington after reaching the postseason on the final day.Nick Wass/Associated Press

Both teams finished the season 92-70. But the Red Sox claimed home field on their rivals by virtue of a 10-9 record against the Yankees during the regular season.

“Wow. That’s just going to go down as another great game in this rivalry,” said Aaron Judge, whose ninth-inning single gave the Yankees a 1-0 victory against the Rays.

It will be the first appearance in the Wild Card Game for the Sox since the format made its debut in 2012.

The victory was especially emotional for Cora, who was fired before the 2020 season after his prominent role in Houston’s 2017 cheating scandal came to light.

He was rehired a year ago and guided a team with low expectations back to the playoffs.

“It means a lot. I was thinking about my family,” Cora said. “I put them in such a hell of a spot last year.


“Me, I can deal with it. I can deal with it. But for them it was tough. The support system that I have is amazing . . . this is for them.”

The Sox seemed to have every advantage when the game started as seven-time All-Star Chris Sale was facing Joan Adon, a 23-year-old righthander from the Dominican Republic making his major league debut.

Adon had a 4.97 earned run average in 21 minor league starts, the last one Sept. 24. The Nationals hoped he could go a few innings.

But it was Sale who couldn’t get through three innings, allowing two runs on four hits because of uncharacteristically poor command of his pitches.

Adon came out throwing 97-mile-per-hour fastballs and held the Sox to two runs over 5⅓ innings while striking out nine. He left the mound with a 5-1 lead.

The only run Adon allowed was a homer by Devers in the fourth inning.

The Sox staged their comeback against Washington’s bullpen.

Christian Vazquez’s infield single made it 5-2 in the sixth inning. The Sox then scored three in the seventh, one on a single by Devers and the last two on a double by Verdugo.

“You could feel the momentum building,” Cora said.

Rafael Devers celebrates his winning home run with Jose Iglesias.Greg Fiume/Getty

In a 5-5 game, Kyle Schwarber reached on an error to open the ninth inning before Devers belted a splitter from Kyle Finnegan to give the Sox their first lead of the game.


“I just kept believing in myself. I had to help the team,” Devers said. “I have to do this for our team and I came through.”

Devers, 24, has had a knack for big hits since he was called up to the majors in 2017. He finished the season with 38 home runs and 113 RBIs.

“He’s an amazing talent. He’s been there and done that. No moment is too big for him,” Cora said.

The Red Sox bullpen slammed the door on the Nationals. Martín Pérez, Garrett Whitlock, Eduardo Rodriguez, and Nick Pivetta retired 12 of the final 13 batters.

Whitlock came off the injured list earlier in the day and hadn’t pitched in two weeks. Rodriguez and Pivetta are usually starting pitchers.

Pivetta struck out Nationals star Juan Soto on three pitches to end the game.

“It’s never giving in, never giving up,” Pivetta said. “We fought really hard to get to this point. We’re a bunch of fighters and grinders on this team.”

The Sox are now 12 victories away from a fifth championship this century.

“There’s work to do,” Cora said.

Nick Pivetta was pumped after closing out Sunday's win.Nick Wass/Associated Press

Peter Abraham can be reached at peter.abraham@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @PeteAbe.