ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — After weeks of tension-filled baseball, the Tampa Bay Rays finally lost one they had to win.
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 Rays on Tuesday night.
Tampa Bay took three win-or-go-home games last week just to reach the division series. Coming from behind against Boston to win another elimination game Monday gave the Rays hope of pushing the series back to Fenway Park, where they were outscored 19-6 in the first two games.
But instead, Tampa Bay was knocked out at home.
"We didn't get where we wanted to get, but cannot be more proud or pleased with our group," manager Joe Maddon said.
Koji Uehara got the final four outs — one night after giving up a game-winning homer — and the Red Sox rebounded to take the best-of-five playoff 3-1.
Both managers mixed and matched all night in a tight game that felt more like a chess match. Desperately trying to avoid elimination, Maddon used nine pitchers and had ace David Price warming up for a possible 10th inning.
"Obviously, everybody is disappointed right now," Rays second baseman Ben Zobrist said. "Joe came in here and said don't hang our heads and remember that we had our backs against the wall several times and played really well to get to this point. It was a good year overall, but it's tough to take the loss."
Breslow relieved Boston starter Jake Peavy in the sixth and struck out his first four batters — all 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 the Red Sox.
The highest-scoring team in the majors this season, Boston scratched out three runs on six singles in a game that featured only one extra-base hit.
"They play a complete game," Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "They're very well managed, obviously. They posed a stern challenge for us, no question."
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 won four win-or-go-home games over 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 finally breaking through in the seventh.
"It's a humbling time," said DeJesus, who got his first taste of postseason play after he was acquired in an August trade. "Sad that it's over."
Bogaerts drew a pinch-hit walk with one out and raced to third on Jacoby Ellsbury's two-out single off Jake McGee. The Rays brought in 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.