Boston registered three straight hits with two outs in the seventh, grinding out a pair of runs to take the lead, 2-1. Shane Victorino showed bunt on a pitch from Joel Peralta and his bat appeared to have temporarily distracted catcher Jose Lobaton. The ball got away from Lobaton and Xander Bogaerts was able to cross the plate for Boston’s first score. Jacoby Ellsbury then scored from third on an infield hit by Victorino, who was just barely safe at first after legging it out.
Dustin Pedroia's sac fly in the ninth gave Boston a small piece of insurance.
The Rays held a 1-0 lead briefly as Yunel Escobar finally gave the Rays an extra-base hit in the sixth. His shot to left off Jake Peavy nearly left the yard, about a foot short, but the Rays shortstop would settle for a double.
Escobar would eventually score as David DeJesus’ screaming liner over the head of first baseman Mike Napoli gave Tampa Bay the lead. Peavy was taken out in favor of Craig Breslow shortly thereafter. Peavy was solid on the night, working 5.2 innings and allowing just one earned run on five hits and 74 pitches. Breslow was tremendous in relief, working 1.2 innings, allowing just one hit, without a run, while striking out four.
Sox closer Koji Uehara gained some redemption from the previous night, not allowing a run to close things out.
Early on, Joe Maddon had about as much confidence in Jeremy Hellickson as members of the Tea Party currently have in Barack Obama as the Rays manager pulled his starter in the second inning even though he had allowed just one hit and had thrown just 22 total pitches. The move did pay off for Maddon, however, as Jamey Wright stifled the Red Sox with the bases loaded. Wright struck out Jarrod Saltalamacchia and then Stephen Drew sharply lined a ball directly to Rays first baseman James Loney, who doubled up Mike Napoli at second.
Tampa Bay threatened in the third inning with runners at first and second, but Peavy got DeJesus to bounce one back to the mound for an easy inning-ending play at first.
The Sox threatened in fourth with two men on but Matt Moore rung up Saltalamacchia looking. They also showed promise in the fifth but Pedroia grounded out with two men on.
What they'll be saying: It took one extra night, but the Red Sox are headed back to the ALCS for the first time since 2008. On a night where extra base hits were hard to come by, the Sox were able to manufacture runs the old fashioned way. They also got terrific pitching performances from Breslow and Uehara, who bounced back nicely from Game 3. Peavy also showed some grit early on.
Game 1 of the ALCS will be played Saturday at Fenway Park against either the Detroit Tigers or Oakland A's. Oakland and Detroit wrap up their series Thursday.
Follow Metro Boston sports editor Matt Burke on Twitter @BurkeMetroBOS