Kiké Hernández’s sacrifice fly in the bottom of the ninth propelled the Red Sox past the Rays, 6-5, in Game 4 of the ALDS on Monday.
The Red Sox won the series, 3-1, and advanced to the American League Championship Series.
Christian Vázquez rolled a single through the left side of the infield to open the bottom of the ninth, and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Christian Arroyo. Vázquez went to third when the Rays couldn’t get Travis Shaw on a slow roller to third, and Vázquez was replaced by pinch-runner Danny Santana.
Santana easily scored on Hernández’s shot to center field.
The Red Sox will face the Astros or White Sox, whose Game 4 on Monday in Chicago was postponed because of rain.
Below are the insights and observations Alex Speier provided throughout Game 4:
Out at third — 10:12 p.m.
Rays center fielder Kevin Kiermaier pegged Alex Verdugo trying to take third base on a fly out to end the eighth inning. The initial call of out was reviewed and upheld, snuffing a Red Sox scoring bid after Verdugo led off the inning by reaching second base on a throwing error by Rays shortstop Wander Franco.
It’s on to the ninth with the score tied, 5-5.
Suddenly, it’s tied — 9:53 p.m.
With six outs separating them from the ALCS, the Red Sox turned to Ryan Brasier for the top of the eighth. Brasier, who’d made 11 straight scoreless appearances, saw that run come to a dramatic end, giving up a pair of doubles and a single to the Rays to leave the score tied, 5-5.
Brasier’s fastball had been explosive at the top of the zone during his recent run. But against both Mike Zunino and Kevin Kiermaier, he worked at 96 m.p.h. at the bottom of the zone, and both juiced pitches to the gap in right-center.
Brasier then got a fastball to the top of the zone against Randy Arozarena, but the October force shot a liner through the right side of the infield – vacated by a shift – to drive in Kiermaier with the tying run.
Red Sox outfielder Hunter Renfroe, who had no shot at Kiermaier, inexplicably overthrew the cutoff man, allowing Arozarena to advance to second. Garrett Whitlock came in to pitch, and he got out of it.
It’s 5-5 after the top of the eighth.
Rays tend to play to the end — 9:23 p.m.
The Red Sox hold a 5-3 lead entering the top of the seventh – not necessarily a comfortable spot against the Rays. Tampa Bay averaged 2.5 runs per game in innings seven through nine on the road this year, most by any AL team since 2009.
The gap closes a bit — 9:07 p.m.
Tampa Bay’s Wander Franco homered against Tanner Houck, his second long ball of the series, and it cut Boston’s lead to 5-3 in the top of the sixth. Franco joins Miguel Cabrera (4), Juan Soto (3), Andruw Jones (3), Mickey Mantle (2), and Rafael Devers (2) as the only players with multiple postseason homers before turning 21.
Job well done — 8:59 p.m.
As manager Alex Cora walked to the mound, Red Sox catcher Christian Vázquez hugged lefthanded starter Eduardo Rodriguez - dominant on three days’ rest, with just one run on three hits allowed – before he was removed from the game.
The move makes all the sense in the world - Rodriguez struck out 5 of 7 to open the game, then 1 of the next 11 hitters. Tanner Houck is in. The Red Sox need 12 outs from their bullpen.
Rodriguez through five innings — 8:43 p.m.
On short rest, lefthander Eduardo Rodriguez is through five innings in which he has been dominant, allowing just one run. Red Sox manager Alex Cora has remained mindful since 2018 of the fact that he over-extended Rodriguez, pitching on short rest, in Game 4 of the World Series, leaving him on the hill for Yasiel Puig to blast a three-run homer in the sixth.
Such a scenario seems unlikely to happen tonight. Tanner Houck is warming.
Eddie Rodriguez: 5 2 1 1 0 6 75/55.— Pete Abraham (@PeteAbe) October 12, 2021
Beyond what the Sox could have hoped for tonight.
Devers goes deep, and the floodgates open — 8:04 p.m.
Rays pitcher Shane McClanahan didn’t allow a run in five scoreless innings of Game 1 of the ALDS. The Red Sox evidently learned from what he did in Tampa Bay, crushing him for five runs in the bottom of the third.
Rafael Devers hit one of the more majestic homers in memory, a cloud-scraper that was hit at 108 m.p.h. with a 34-degree launch angle. The ball seemed to pose above the scoreboard against the night sky long enough to build anticipation before dropping into the first row of the center field bleachers, resulting in absolute bedlam at Fenway.
The Sox kept the pedal down, with a two-out RBI double by Alex Verdugo followed by an RBI single off the Wall from J.D. Martinez. McClanahan recorded just two outs before getting pulled by Rays manager Kevin Cash.
Of course, the Red Sox are aware that they cannot take a five-run advantage for granted. Not only did they erase a 5-2 deficit en route to a 14-6 win in Game 2, but the team also lost a game this year in which it led by six runs.
17 pitches to one batter — 7:58 p.m.
Eduardo Rodriguez struck out Austin Meadows leading off the third inning in a – gulp! – 17-pitch at-bat! Rodriguez quickly got ahead, 0-2, before Meadows fouled off a slider. He took the next three pitches – all balls – to bring the count to 3-2, then fouled off 10 consecutive pitches. Finally, Rodriguez put him away with a swing-and-miss slider.
The 17-pitch plate appearance is the longest recorded postseason plate appearance in the database of Baseball-Reference.com, surpassing a 16-pitch plate appearance that ended in a lineout by then-Red Sox Johnny Damon against Yankees starter Jon Lieber in Game 2 of the 2004 ALCS.
The Rays are all-in tonight — 7:44 p.m.
The Rays had remained coy about whether they might consider bringing back one of their tremendously talented young pitchers – Shane McClanahan and Shane Baz – to pitch in Game 4 on short rest. Prior to the game, Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash talked about balancing the need to win Game 4 with the protection of the futures of his hard-throwing rookies, a stance perhaps best described as Shane-ger Management.
In the top of the third inning, it’s now clear: The Rays are all-in on Game 4 of the ALDS. McClanahan – on three days of rest following his excellent Game 1 start – is warming for the Rays.
After 2, it’s tied — 7:39 p.m.
Rays center fielder Kevin Kiermaier caught three straight fly outs, including a sinking liner by J.D. Martinez, in the bottom of the second and after two innings, the score is 0-0.
Sox swinging away — 7:33 p.m.
The Red Sox are ready to swing against Rays starter Collin McHugh. Their four first-inning batters combined to see just eight pitches, tied for the third fewest the team has seen in the first inning of any game this year.
It’s game on — 7:11 p.m.
Red Sox outfielder Hunter Renfroe – one day after his kick save in the Red Sox’ 6-4 Game 3 victory – did something far more intentional and impressive. On the first play of the game, Randy Arozarena drilled an Eduardo Rodriguez offering into the gap in right-center for what seemed a sure game-opening double or triple. Instead, Renfroe took a perfect route and made a backhand, shoestring catch with his back to home plate – a remarkable play.
Mookie Betts, of course, has an incredible postseason defensive highlight reel, but Renfroe – between 2020 with the Rays and his memorable play in Game 3 and that catch to open Game 4 – is no slouch.
Eduardo Rodriguez followed the amazing Renfroe catch with back-to-back strikeouts of Wander Franco and Brandon Lowe. He’s working mid-90s at the top of the zone (his fastball was very hittable in Game 1 when in the lower half of the zone), complemented with a slider (rather than his more frequently used cutter) that garnered a couple of swings and misses.
It will remain interesting to see if he’s a different pitcher out of the stretch – when he often encounters issues with tipping. But the Renfroe catch helped ensure that his effectiveness when not pitching out of the windup wouldn’t be tested in the first inning.
A hero’s welcome — 6:29 p.m.
Red Sox catcher Christian Vázquez, who hit last night’s walkoff homer, received a significant ovation as he walked from the dugout to the bullpen for warmups. The Red Sox are wearing home reds.
Pregame at Fenway Park — 5:31 p.m.
Notes and observations from Red Sox manager Alex Cora’s pregame media session:
• Cora said Hansel Robles, who threw up after pitching yesterday, should be OK today. He said it’s nothing COVID-related.
• No yellow uniforms for the Red Sox on Monday. It’ll be red or white.
• Pitcher Nate Eovaldi, who started Game 3 on Sunday, told Cora he’s available to pitch an inning tonight.
Starting lineups — 5:25 p.m.
RAYS: Arozarena RF, Franco SS, Lowe 2B, Cruz DH, Luplow 1B, Diaz 3B, Meadows LF, Zunino C, Kiermaier CF
Pitching: RHP Collin McHugh (6-1, 1.55 ERA)
RED SOX: Schwarber 1B, Hernández CF, Devers 3B, Bogaerts SS, Verdugo LF, Martinez DH, Renfroe RF, Vázquez C, Arroyo 2B.
Pitching: LHP Eduardo Rodriguez (13-8, 4.74 ERA)
Rays go with McHugh — 5:12 p.m.
The Red Sox had planned on starting Nick Pivetta, but after he threw 67 pitches over his four shutout innings in Game 3, they will turn to Eduardo Rodriguez for Game 4. The Rays will have a bullpen game, as Peter Abraham reported in today’s Red Sox notebook, with righthander Collin McHugh serving as the opener.
Braves top Brewers — 4:56 p.m.
Joc Pederson kept enhancing his “Joctober” nickname with a three-run, pinch-hit homer and the Atlanta Braves shut down Milwaukee once again, beating the Brewers 3-0 on Monday to take a 2-1 edge in the NL Division Series. In a matchup dominated by pitching, Ian Anderson and the Braves bullpen combined on a five-hitter and won by a 3-0 score for the second straight game.
Astros-White Sox rained out — 4:21 p.m.
Game 4 of the other AL Division Series was postponed Monday because of forecast rain, and the teams are set to play Tuesday. The Astros lead the best-of-five series 2-1.
Carlos Rodon is scheduled to start for Chicago, with Game 1 starter Lance Lynn available out of the bullpen. White Sox manager Tony La Russa said Lynn or Lucas Giolito would start a potential Game 5 Wednesday at Houston depending on how things go on Tuesday.
Material from the Associated Press and previous Globe reporting was used in this story.