Jason Bay slid headfirst into the home plate to score on Jed Lowrie's two-out single in the ninth inning as the defending World Series champion Boston Red Sox beat the Los Angeles Angels 3-2 and advanced to the American League finals for the fourth time in six seasons.
|Mark Teixeira of the LA Angels tries to get out Jed Lowrie of Boston Red Sox [GALLO/GETTY]
The Red Sox brushed aside the 100-win Angels in four games of their AL Division Series.
Boston which also won it all in 2004, will have a chance at a third title in five years if they can get past the Tampa Bay Rays in the best-of-seven AL championship series that starts at Tampa Bay on Friday.
Boston is 31-16 in October since the turn of the century, and both World Series runs began with a playoff sweep of the Angels.
Los Angeles was able to force the series to a fourth game with an extra-inning victory Sunday night that snapped an 11-game playoff losing streak against Boston.
As it turned out, that gave them less than an 24 extra hours.
Jon Lester held the Angels to four hits in seven shutout innings but lost his chance at a second victory in the series when Los Angeles scored twice in the eighth to tie it 2-all.
The Angels had a chance to go ahead in the ninth before Erick Aybar, whose 12th-inning single was the winner in Game 3, missed on a suicide squeeze attempt, thwarting the threat.
In the bottom half, Bay lofted a fly ball down the right-field line that Reggie Willits pursued and dove for before it one-hopped into the stands for a ground-rule double.
First baseman Mark Teixeira made a diving catch of Mark Kotsay's line drive for the second out before Lowrie grounded a single to right.
Bay raced around third and slid headfirst into home while his teammates poured out of the dugout to celebrate.
Rays 6, White Sox 2
At Chicago, B.J. Upton homered twice, Andy Sonnanstine pitched a solid 5 2-3 innings and manager Joe Maddon's surprising Rays wrapped up the best-of-five AL Division Series in four games, in their first trip to the playoffs.
Next up, the Boston Red Sox starting on Friday.
After staving off elimination several times and winning a tiebreaker for the AL Central division title, the White Sox were finally knocked out.
Just days ago, Chicago fans were thinking the Cubs and White Sox might meet in a Windy City World Series.
But the Cubs were swept by the Los Angeles Dodgers and now both teams are done.
Upton, the game's second batter, homered to left-centre to put the Rays ahead.
He went deep again in the third, driving a full-count pitch from Gavin Floyd to centre, and the confident Rays had a two-run cushion.
|Starting pitcher Andy Sonnanstine of the Tampa Bay [GALLO/GETTY]
Tampa Bay increased the lead to 4-0 in the fourth when Carl Crawford walked and scored as veteran Cliff Floyd, a Chicago native, doubled to left.
Dioner Navarro followed with an RBI single to finish Floyd.
Paul Konerko hit a solo homer for the White Sox in the bottom half and the white towel-waving crowd dressed in black had a reason to get excited.
But Tampa Bay struck right back in the fifth against Clayton Richard as Akinori
Iwamura singled and scored on Carlos Pena's single that made it 5-1.
Jermaine Dye hit a solo home run in the sixth to finish Sonnanstine.
Tampa Bay kept adding on and Pena hit his second RBI single in the seventh, after the White Sox had intentionally walked Upton.
Sonnanstine, who reversed a late-season slide that saw him go winless in his final seven starts, allowed two runs and three hits before J.P Howell relieved.
Grant Balfour completed the four-hitter, striking out Chicago's midseason addition Ken Griffey Jr. to end it.