Red Sox Move on to ALCS

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The Red Sox barely squeaked into the playoffs. Now they’re headed to the ALCS.

An Enrique Hernandez sacrifice fly in the bottom of the ninth inning gave the Red Sox a 6-5 win over the Rays in Monday’s ALDS Game 4. It was their second walk-off win in as many days as they sent the 100-win Rays packing.

The Red Sox jumped out to a 5-0 lead with a five-run bottom of the third inning. It was spearheaded by Rafael Devers, who slugged a two-out, three-run home run off of Shane McClanahan, who was pitching on three days’ rest and in relief for the first time this season. Boston followed Devers’ blast with three more hits and two runs.

It looked like that might be enough with Eduardo Rodriguez keeping the Rays at bay while pitching on short rest himself. However, Tampa Bay chipped away with a single run in the fifth and a two-run shot by Wander Franco in the sixth after E-Rod was pulled.

The Rays then blasted reliever Ryan Brasier with three straight hits and two runs in the eighth to knot things up. They were unable to tack on despite having a runner on second and no one out, and that proved to be costly as the Red Sox walked things off in the ninth.

It’s certainly a tough pill to swallow for a Rays club which reached 100 wins in the regular season for the first time in franchise history. They shut the Red Sox out in Game 1 but then a team which led the AL in ERA gave up a total of 26 runs as they lost three straight.

Devers also singled twice in addition to the three-run blast. It was a very encouraging showing from a guy who’s playing hurt right now, no doubt giving the third baseman and the Red Sox some confidence as they go into their first ALCS since they won it all in 2018.

The Red Sox will begin the ALCS on the road Friday, regardless of which team out of the White Sox and Astros advances. Those two clubs are set to play Game 4 on Tuesday after Monday’s contest was rained out, with the Astros holding a 2-1 series lead.

Braves Beat Brewers

Joc Pederson’s propensity for big hits in the postseason during his days with the Dodgers led to his former teammates rebranding the month as “Joctober.” He’s changed uniforms a couple times since then, but the calendar reads Joctober again.

Pederson came off the bench to deliver a decisive pinch-hit, three-run home run in the bottom of the fifth inning Monday against the Brewers in Game 3 of the NLDS, giving the Braves the only runs they would need in a 3-0 victory. The 29-year-old is now a perfect 3-for-3 in the series, picking up a pinch hit in each game. Two of them have been home runs, and both came off of Adrian Houser.

In 67 career postseason games, Pederson is now sporting a .286/.360/.522 batting line with 11 home runs and 24 RBI. Among active players, only seven guys have hit more playoff long balls.

Pederson’s home run on Monday saved Adam Duvall’s bacon, in a sense. Duvall made a terrible baserunning blunder in the second inning, getting thrown out while trying to advance from first to second base on a flyout, with the double play negating a run which would’ve scored on a sacrifice fly.

The Brewers, meanwhile, were shut out for the second straight game and now are on the brink of elimination. That’s after they scored just two runs in Game 1 as the eked out a win. Milwaukee is 0-for-16 with runners in scoring position in the series. They’ve scored in just one of 26 innings thus far.

The desperation for some offense is what contributed manager Craig Counsell to pinch-hit for Freddy Peralta in the top of the fifth inning with runners on second and third and one out. It was an understandable move but didn’t work, as Daniel Vogelbach grounded into a fielder’s choice and Kolten Wong lined out. Peralta had thrown just 57 pitches over four shutout frames.

Ian Anderson went five superb shutout innings for the Braves, striking out six while yielding just three hits, no walks and a hit by pitch. The young right-hander has now permitted just two runs over 23 2/3 playoff innings covering five starts. He’s struck out 30 over that span.

Pitching plans for Tuesday’s Game 4 have not been finalized. Braves skipper Brian Snitker has not ruled out turning to Charlie Morton on short rest after the veteran righty threw 85 pitches in Game 1. The other option would likely be Huascar Ynoa, who hasn’t pitched in the series. Brewers manager Craig Counsell hasn’t named a starter, either, but said it won’t be Corbin Burnes on three days’ rest. Eric Lauer would seem to be the overwhelming favorite to draw the opportunity as the Brew Crew try to stave off elimination.

Giants Send Dodgers to the Brink

The Dodgers always win when Max Scherzer starts. At least, they had until Monday.

The Giants rode a brilliant team pitching performance and an Evan Longoria solo home run to a 1-0 victory at Dodger Stadium in Game 3 of the NLDS. It was just the 15th time in baseball history that a postseason game was won 1-0 when the one run was scored on a solo homer.

Alex Wood drew the start against his former team and was brilliant, permitting only two Albert Pujols singles and two walks over 4 2/3 shutout innings. He then handed things off to Tyler Rogers (1 2/3 innings), Jake McGee (2/3 of an inning) and Camilo Doval (two innings) to finish off the shutout.

The Giants’ relievers did need a little help, and it came in the form of Brandon Crawford and also the wind. Crawford made a fantastic leaping snare of a Mookie Betts line drive in the seventh inning on a ball which would have tied the game. As for the wind, it was uncharacteristically strong and knocked down possible (probable?) home run balls from Chris Taylor in the sixth and Gavin Lux with two out in the ninth.

Longoria’s long ball off Scherzer to lead off the top of the fifth inning was one of only three hits the Giants managed on the night. It was also the first and only hit Longo has had during the series.

As for Scherzer, you can’t blame him for his streak coming to an end. He was superb, yielding just three hits and one walk while striking out 10 over seven innings of work. Mad Max became the sixth pitcher in history to notch at least five 10+ strikeout games in the postseason. Justin Verlander (seven), Clayton Kershaw (six), Cliff Lee (five), Randy Johnson (five) and Bob Gibson (five) are the others. Not bad.

The Giants will go with Anthony DeSclafani in Game 4 on Tuesday as the attempt to finish the Dodgers off and advance to the NLCS. The Dodgers haven’t named a starter for Tuesday yet, but skipper Dave Roberts hasn’t ruled out using Walker Buehler on short rest as they try to stay alive.

Quick Hits: The Astros will move Lance McCullers up to start Game 4 of the ALDS versus the White Sox on Tuesday following Monday’s rainout. The White Sox are sticking with Carlos Rodon. … Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times reports that the Mariners are expected to decline Kyle Seager’s $20 million option for 2022. He also notes that they’re also expected to decline their option on Yusei Kikuchi, but the lefty plans to exercise his $13 million player option if that happens. … ESPN’s Buster Olney has heard industry speculation about the Padres having interest in Aaron Boone for their managerial vacancy should the Yankees let him walk.