The Red Sox celebrate their ALDS victory over the Tampa Bay Rays on Oct. 8, 2013. (Instagram/RedSox)
For the Boston Red Sox, each one of their 100 wins in 2013 has felt like vindication.
But Tuesday's victory, which put an end to the Tampa Bay Ray's postseason hopes and advanced the bearded boys to the American League Championship Series, has been the sweetest so far.
The dominant combination of starter Jake Peavy, five stellar outs from Craig Breslow and the no-nonsense four-out save from Koji Uehara, Tampa Bay managed to plate just one run.
Rays manager Joe Madden put nine pitchers on the mound, and while they managed to shut out Boston for the first six innings, a wild pitch, a stolen base and some big-time hustle in the 7th brought home rookie Xander Bogaerts and speedster Jacoby Ellsbury to put the Sox on top for good.
"This is uncharted territory for me," said Breslow, who was awarded the win Tuesday, in what was his first-ever postseason appearance. "So every win that we get, I'm going to relish and I'm going to understand we have an ultimate goal in mind. This is great, hopefully this is just one step in the next few."
The Sox went from the the worst team in the AL East last year to the best, winning 28 more games than in 2012 on their way to a tie for the best record in baseball this season.
The team's dominant play all year has leant itself to a feeling of inevitability.
In taking the Division Series from the Rays, three games to one, the Red Sox outscored Tampa Bay 26-12, keeping with the team's reputation as a run-scoring machine. Boston scored more runs in the 2013 regular season than any other team -- 853 -- beating out the next-best Detroit Tigers by 57 runs, and leading both leagues in on-base percentage and runs batted in by notable margins.
While Boston will still have to face either the Tigers or the Oakland A's for the pennant, and, should they come out on top there, the Los Angeles Dodgers, St. Louis Cardinals or the Pittsburgh Pirates in their quest for the crown, the Sox took plenty of time Tuesday night to celebrate their remarkable season with gatorade showers and plenty of spraying champagne.
Left fielder Jonny Gomes donned sunglasses and a green combat helmet worn by a buddy in Afghanistan, while first baseman Mike Napoli forwent a shirt and headed for the bubbly bath in lime green swim trunks.
Manager John Farrell got a bucket of gatorade dumped on his head, and someone (Gomes, perhaps, but with all the beards, it's tough to tell) jumped into a giant champagne bucket and took a celebratory ice bath.
The Red Sox caught an early morning flight back to Beantown, and will face the winner of the A's-Tigers series, which is tied 2-2 and concludes Thursday, starting Saturday.