Players from the Boston Red Sox celebrate after defeating the Tampa Bay Rays in Game 4 of the 2021 American League Division Series on Monday at Fenway Park in Boston. Photo by CJ Gunther/EPA-EFE
Oct. 11 (UPI) -- The Boston Red Sox punched their ticket to the American League Championship Series with a 6-5 walk-off win over the division rival Tampa Bay Rays in Game 4 of the AL Division Series on Monday night at Fenway Park.
Kike Hernandez delivered the Red Sox's second consecutive walk-off victory when he scored pinch-runner Danny Santana with a sacrifice fly in the ninth inning, sending Boston back to the ALCS for the first time since its World Series title in 2018.
After taking Game 3 of the best-of-five AL Division Series on Sunday with Christian Vazquez's two-run homer in the 13th inning, the Red Sox won Game 4 for their first set of back-to-back walk-off playoff victories since Games 4 and 5 of the 2004 ALCS.
Boston will play the winner of the other ALDS matchup between the Houston Astros and Chicago White Sox. The Astros lead that series 2-1 going into Tuesday's Game 4 in Chicago.
"We always said we had a good baseball team that had some holes, and we still have some holes," Red Sox manager Alex Cora said. "But at the end, for how bad it looked sometimes, we're still here. We're still in the dance."
The Rays, meanwhile, suffered an abrupt end to their remarkable 2021 campaign after winning 100 games in the regular season and cruising to the AL East crown. Tampa Bay was attempting to reach the World Series for the second straight year.
"There's no doubt there's disappointment," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "We had high aspirations to get deep into this thing. We ran into a Red Sox team that just beat us -- no other way around it. They got the big hits."
Rafael Devers blasted a three-run home run to spark a five-run third inning that gave Boston a 5-0 lead. The Rays chipped away at that deficit and eventually tied the game in the eighth after Randy Arozarena's RBI single.
Hernandez, who was 9 for 20 in the series, then provided the heroics with a fly ball to left, scoring Santana to clinch the walk-off win in the ninth.
Earlier Monday, the Atlanta Braves earned a 3-0 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers at Truist Park to take a 2-1 lead in the National League Division Series.
Joc Pederson put the Braves on the verge of advancing to the NLCS for the second straight year with a three-run, pinch-hit homer in the bottom of the fifth.
"It was pretty special," Pederson said of his home run. "To come up big in a moment like that was pretty cool."
Ian Anderson and the Braves' bullpen combined for a five-hitter and closed out the Brewers by a final score of 3-0 for the second consecutive game.
The Braves will host Game 4 on Tuesday. The winner of the best-of-five NLDS will play either the San Francisco Giants or Los Angeles Dodgers.