NEW YORK — Red Sox first baseman Steve Pearce was sure he had his foot on the bag and the ball in glove. But the Yankees weren’t going to just go away.
They challenged the final call of the game, making the Sox and countless fans at home on the edge of their couches wait 63 long seconds to learn whether they had won the Division Series and advanced to baseball’s final four.
A video review confirmed the call and the champagne bottles popped. A 4-3 victory was in the books.
“That was weird,” Pearce said. “But it was worth it.”
On a night every reliever but closer Craig Kimbrel was perfect, the Sox held on to defeat their rivals in four games and advance to the American League Championship Series.
Game 1 is scheduled for Saturday at 8:09 p.m. at Fenway Park against the defending World Series champion Houston Astros.
Rick Porcello and four relievers held the Yankees to five hits. The set-up man for Kimbrel was Chris Sale, who came in for the eighth inning and retired the side in order.
“This is why I’ve been playing baseball all these years, for this,” said Sale, who had never been on a team that won a playoff series. “It’s even better than I thought it would be.”
For the Red Sox, who won 108 games in the regular season, it was their first postseason series victory since the 2013 World Series. That they sent the rival Yankees home for the winter was an added bonus.
Tuesday was the second champagne celebration in 20 days in the visitors’ clubhouse at Yankee Stadium for the Sox, who clinched the American League East in the Bronx on Sept. 20.
“We just wanted to win, it didn’t matter against who,” Andrew Benintendi said. “But the way the season went, we knew we’d have to beat these guys.”
Sox pitchers had retired 11 in a row and handed Kimbrel a 4-1 lead in the ninth. He walked Aaron Judge before Didi Gregorius singled to right field.
Giancarlo Stanton struck out on four pitches, waving helplessly at a curveball. Kimbrel then walked Luke Voit on four pitches to load the bases.
Kimbrel hit Neil Walker with a pitch to force in a run. Gary Sanchez’s fly ball to deep left field scored Gregorius. When Gleyber Torres grounded to third, Eduardo Nunez raced in and made a terrific throw to first.
Torres was called out on a close play as Pearce made a stretch to secure the ball.
“Great play all the way around,” Sale said. “We knew he was out.”
Kimbrel needed 28 pitches for the shakiest of saves.
“He wasn’t the usual Craig Kimbrel, but he got three outs, and he closed out the game,” manager Alex Cora said.
Cora, as he did in Game 3, made all the right moves. He changed the lineup again to use Nunez, Ian Kinsler, and Christian Vazquez. They accounted for three runs.
Cora played chess in the series while Yankees counterpart Aaron Boone was playing Chutes and Ladders. Cora’s style paid off.
“The last couple of years, I didn’t think we were very aggressive,” principal owner John Henry said. “We were tonight. Alex did a great job.”
In what could have been his final game for the Yankees, 38-year-old CC Sabathia allowed three runs over three innings before being lifted. All three came in the third inning.
Sabathia hit Benintendi with a pitch before Pearce singled to right field. Benintendi went to third on the single, then scored on a sacrifice fly by J.D. Martinez.
With two outs, Kinsler doubled to left field and scored on a single down the line in left by Nunez.
Kinsler and Nunez, both righthanded hitters, were in the lineup against Sabathia a day after Brock Holt and Rafael Devers started and played leading roles in a 16-1 rout of the Yankees.
“Alex has a great feel for the game and for this team,” Holt said. “It was great to see those guys do what they did.”
The lead grew to 4-0 when Vazquez sneaked a home run over the fence in right field against Zach Britton in the fourth inning. It was his first career postseason home run and Vazquez pumped his fist as he rounded first base.
Porcello came into the game with a 5.85 earned run average in four previous postseason starts. But in this game, throwing to Vazquez for the first time this season, he allowed one run over five innings and left with a 4-1 lead.
“I wasn’t surprised. Alex had the bullpen set up,” Porcello said.
Porcello needed only 40 pitches to get through the first four innings, retiring 12 of the 14 hitters he faced with unerring efficiency.
Sanchez doubled to the gap in left field with one out in the fifth. Torres followed with a slow groundball down the third base line that stayed fair all the way to the bag for a single.
Brett Gardner’s sacrifice fly scored Sanchez. Porcello then won a nine-pitch battle with Aaron Hicks, getting him on a popup to shallow right field that left Judge on deck.
Despite Porcello having thrown only 65 pitches, Cora went to Matt Barnes to start the sixth inning.
It was less about inning and more about leverage as the Yankees had their big hitters coming up. Barnes dispatched Judge, Gregorius and Stanton on 14 pitches.
Ryan Brasier was next out of the bullpen and he retired the side in order in the seventh inning.
“We have a great team. We’re very versatile. We count on everybody, and it was a great team victory,” Cora said. “The last two games, if you think about it, it was fun to watch.”