The Tampa Bay Rays beat the Boston Red Sox 3-1 to win the American League championship 4-3 and reach the World Series for the first time in their 11-year existence.
|What a relief: Price closes out [GALLO/GETTY]
The defending World Series champion Red Sox had fought back from 3-1 down and trailing 7-0 in Game Five to force a decider against the Rays who had never won more than 70 games in their previous 10 seasons.
"It shows anything is possible," Rays owner Stuart Sternberg said after accepting the championship trophy.
The Rays will begin the World Series against the National League champion Philadelphia Phillies on Wednesday at Tropicana Field in St Petersburg, Florida.
The magic is gone
Defeat for the 2007 World Series winner ended their run of magical comebacks in recent years as Game Seven proved one too far.
"We got beat by a very good team. They'll represent the American League very, very well," Boston manager Terry Francona said in the early hours of Monday.
Rays - who posted the worst record in Major League Baseball last season - will regard the contribution of improbable closer David Price as a key component in their surprise journey to the World Series,
The 23-year-old Price, who had thrown only 14 innings as a rookie this season for Tampa, used a blazing fastball to strike out JD Drew with the bases loaded to end the eighth and pitched a scoreless ninth for his first career save.
Wanted: one ball
"I wanted the ball," the big left-hander said.
|Pedroia feels the pain of a Garza pitch [GALLO/GETTY]
"Everybody in that pen wanted the ball. This is the biggest night in Rays history."
Price, a starting pitcher who was number one pick overall in last year's draft after his college career at Vanderbilt, joined Tampa Bay in September and was used out of the bullpen.
He struck out Mark Kotsay and Jason Varitek before getting pinch-hitter Jed Lowery to smack a game-ending grounder to second baseman Akinori Iwamura.
That set off wild celebrations in the middle of the diamond with Price buried under a pile of jubilant Rays players.
"Unbelievable," Price said. "You're so happy out there, I think everybody shed a couple of tears. I was in the bottom of the dog pile. I couldn't breathe. I wouldn't trade that moment for anything."
Rays manager Joe Maddon said he did not hesitate to summon Price.
Ace in the deck
"This young man is composed beyond his years," said Maddon, adding that Price was "kind of an ace in your back pocket".
Francona, whose teams had won all nine previous games when a defeat would have meant elimination in a league championship series, saluted the young fireballer.
"He was phenomenal," Francona said. "The velocity, the breaking balls. He gave us fits.
"The kid came in and pitched great. We had the guys up we wanted. We had men on. We had our chances and he threw the ball very, very well."
Most valuable player
Series MVP Matt Garza had held Boston to one run and two hits over the first seven innings before Price protected the lead.
|Slide show: Aybar gets home [GALLO/GETTY]
Earlier Dustin Pedroia gave Boston a 1-0 lead with a first-inning home run.
The Rays tied the game in the fourth inning on a double by Evan Longoria off Red Sox pitcher Jon Lester that drove in Carlos Pena.
Willy Aybar doubled to start the fifth inning and scored on a single by Rocco Baldelli. Aybar homered in the seventh inning for the final run.
The Red Sox also trailed last year's American League championship series 3-1 against Cleveland but won the last three games and the World Series against Colorado.
The Rays had the worst record in baseball last year at 66-96 but improved to 97-65 this season to win the AL East division from the Red Sox by two games.
"We've proved doubters wrong this entire time and we told each other keep believing, keep fighting," Garza said.