After Jose Lobaton’s walk off home run ended the Boston Red Sox chances at a three game sweep of the Tampa Bay Rays on Monday, Boston still found themselves in the drivers seat of the 2013 ALDS. Game four of the American League Divisional Series saw Boston expose an underestimated facet of their team-- starting pitching depth. The Red Sox sent to the hill their prize of the trade deadline and former Cy Young Award winner, Jake Peavy. The Rays countered with the 2011 American League Rookie of the Year, Jeremy Hellickson. But while both boast impressive career resumes respectively, both game 4 starters had extremely different outings and overall different games. Jake Peavy entered Tuesday nights start not having pitched since September 25th, when he allowed 5 earned runs over 6 innings against the Colorado Rockies. Overall Peavy hobbled to the 2013 regular season finish line, pitching 25 innings with a 5.40 ERA over 4 starts. But whether it was the rest Peavy got or if it was the ALDS stage, Peavy didn’t show a sign of his September woes. The right hander threw 5.2 innings, allowing 5 hits, and one run against the Rays bats. In stark contrast to Peavy, Rays starter Jeremy Hellickson ended up being the first of nine Rays to pitch. After a clean first inning of work, Hellickson was pulled after he seemingly lost control of all of his pitches. Following Hellickson, Jamey Wright, Matt Moore, and Alex Torres combined to shut the Red Sox out for 5 innings. However Jack McGee, Joel Peralta, and Fernando Rodney didn’t carry on the same success. And by the time Chris Archer and Wesley Wright came in to pitch, the Rays were just trying to keep their head above water.
While they had their chances, the Red Sox couldn’t seem to push a run across for Jake Peavy. Boston loaded the bases in the second inning with no outs but Jarrod Saltalamacchia struck out and Stephen Drew followed by lining into an inning ending double play. Boston would go on to have a runner in scoring position in the fourth and fifth inning but ultimately fail to drive either run across home plate. Meanwhile, Tampa Bay collected 3 singles over the first five innings but were otherwise held quiet by Jake Peavy. However, in the 6th inning the Rays bats came alive. Yunel Escobar lead off with a double off the top of the left field wall. Two batters later, Tampa Bay center fielder David DeJesus drove Escobar in to score and gave Tampa Bay the lead which knocked Peavy out of the game. But the Red Sox would quickly respond to the Rays advantage. Tampa Bay called upon Jake McGee pitch to the bottom half of the Red Sox order. After a Jonny Gomes fly out, Red Sox manager John Farrell elected to pinch hit Xander Bogaerts for Stephen Drew. Bogaerts ended up working a six pitch walk which would mark the start of the Red Sox 7th inning rally. After Jacoby Ellsbury singled and moved Bogaerts to third, the Rays brought Joel Peralta in to relieve Jake McGee. However that didn’t stop Boston’s rally. With Shane Victorino batting, Jacoby Ellsbury stole second base, putting runners on second and third. Peralta then followed with a wild pitch which allowed Bogaerts to score from third base and tie the game. Peralta then got Victorino to hit a slow infield grounder towards short stop but Escobar couldn’t field and throw the ball to first fast enough and Victorino was safe at first while Ellsbury came across to score. Now with the lead, Boston sent Craig Breslow back out to the mound after he recorded the final out of the 6th inning. Breslow was set to face the teeth of the Rays order and certainly rose to the occasion. It took 15 pitches for Boston’s left handed hurler to strike out Evan Longoria, Ben Zobrist, and Desmond Jennings in succession. But Breslow’s work wasn’t done. After a quick top of the 8th, Breslow returned to the mound and got Delmon Young and Yunel Escobar to ground out. In the top half of the 9th inning it was Xander Bogaerts who again started another rally. The Rays called upon Fernando Rodney to keep the score where it is, however he did anything but keep the Red Sox off the bases. Bogaerts lead off with a six pitch walk and two batters later Ellsbury would also draw a walk and Shane Victorino would follow with a hit by pitch. With the bases now loaded, Dustin Pedroia hit a sac fly to right field which scored Xander Bogaerts from third and gave the Red Sox an insurance run. In the 9th, Koji did what Koji always does. It took him just 13 pitches to retire the Rays in order and lock down the save. More importantly though, the victory secured the American League Divisional Series for the Red Sox and punched Boston’s ticket to the American League Championship Series where they will play the Detroit Tigers. The ALCS will begin on Saturday night at Fenway Park.