MLB: Red Sox reach first ALCS since 2008

By Associated Press  • 
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Mike Carlson | Associated Press
Boston’s Will Middlebrooks slides under Tampa Bay’s Yunel Escobar during the third inning of last night’s AL division series game in St. Petersburg, Fla.

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Shane Victorino’s infield single snapped a seventh-inning tie and journeyman Craig Breslow gave Boston a huge boost out of the bullpen, sending the Red Sox into the AL championship series with a 3-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays last night.

Koji Uehara got the final four outs — one night after giving up a walk-off homer — and the Red Sox rebounded to win the best-of-five playoff 3-1.

Back in the ALCS for the first time in five years, they’ll open at home Saturday against the Athletics or Tigers. Oakland hosts Detroit in Game 5 on Thursday.

Both managers mixed and matched all night in a tense game that felt more like a chess match. Desperately trying to avoid elimination, Rays skipper Joe Maddon used nine pitchers.

Breslow relieved Boston starter Jake Peavy in the sixth and struck out his first four batters — all of them in the middle of Tampa Bay’s lineup.

The 33-year-old lefty from Yale has pitched for six teams in eight big-league seasons, including two stints with Boston.

Xander Bogaerts scored the tying run on Joel Peralta’s wild pitch in the seventh and Victorino followed with an RBI infield single. Dustin Pedroia drove in Bogaerts with a sacrifice fly in the ninth to make it 3-1, and Uehara struck out Evan Longoria to end it.

The resilient Rays had won four win-or-go-home games in the previous nine days and led 1-0 this time before Boston rallied.

David DeJesus snapped a scoreless tie with an RBI single in the sixth and Boston squandered several opportunities before breaking through in the seventh.

Bogaerts, pinch-hitting, drew a one-out walk and raced to third on Jacoby Ellsbury’s two-out single off Jake McGee. The Rays brought on their sixth pitcher, Peralta, and the game shifted suddenly on his first pitch, which skipped in the dirt past catcher Jose Lobaton — allowing the tying run to score.

Ellsbury was stealing second on the pitch and continued to third when the ball rolled toward the backstop. Victorino beat out a slow chopper to shortstop, putting the Red Sox ahead 2-1.

Breslow pitched 1 2/3 scoreless innings for the win. Uehara earned a save.

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