Dustin Pedroia can't bear to watch what's going on.

Matt Garza outdueled Jon Lester and the Tampa Bay Rays bullpen made it hold up as they went to beat the Boston Red Sox 3-1 to earn their first ever berth in the World Series. The Rays and Phillies will kick things off on Wednesday night on FOX.

David Price was back on in the 9th inning and walked Jason Bay to start things off. Price rebounded to strike out Mark Kotsay and Jason Varitek. Jed Lowrie pinch-hit for Alex Cora and Price got him to hit a groundball to Akinori Iwamura who stepped on second to start the celebration in front of 40,473 at Tropicana Field.

Jon Lester gave it his all tonight but it just wasn't good enough.

Jon Lester gave it his all tonight but it just wasn't good enough.

Jon Lester was outstanding tonight for the Red Sox and kept pace with Garza. Lester went 7 innings allowing 3 runs on 6 hits while striking out 8. Hideki Okajima struck out 1 in his inning of relief.

Garza gave up 1 run on 2 hits and 3 walks while fanning 9 Red Sox hitters in 7+ innings of work. David Price worked the final 1 1/3 innings for the save. Garza picked up ALCS MVP honors for winning 2 of the 4 games for the Rays. Maybe he should be called Big Game Garza since James Shields definitely didn’t live up to that billing.

Dustin Pedroia got the Red Sox out in front early on when he hit a 1-out fastball into the seats in left field.

Lester sent down the first 9 Rays hitters he faced before an Iwamura single to start the 4th inning. He struck out B.J. Upton and got Carlos Peña to ground into a fielder’s choice with Iwamura out at second. Evan Longoria followed with a double that scored Peña all the way from first base to tie the game at 1.

Willy Aybar led off the 6th with a double and stayed there when Dioner Navarro reached on an infield single to short. Rhode Island’s Rocco Baldelli gave the Rays a 2-1 lead as his single scored Aybar from second. After that, Lester settled down and got the 3 outs in the inning.

The Red Sox had a good chance to score in the 7th inning.

J.D. Drew worked a 1-out walk and went to second on Bay single. Kotsay flew out to left as Drew moved over to third but Garza got Varitek to strike out to end the inning.

Aybar gave the Rays a 3-1 lead when he hit a towering home run into the seats in left field.

The Red Sox had another chance in the 8th inning to get closer but failed to do so this time as well.

Cora reached when Jason Bartlett booted the ball. Joe Maddon then went to the bullpen for Dan Wheeler who gave up a single to Coco and got Pedroia to fly out. J.P. Howell came in and did his job as he got Big Papi to ground into a fielder’s choice that saw Coco out on a close play at second base. Chad Bradford came in and walked Kevin Youkilis to load up the bases for Drew. Price came in and struck him out on a questionable check swing call on strike three.

It’s been a long season of baseball for the Red Sox. Even though they lost, I’m still proud of this team. This series could have been over on Thursday but they gave it a good fight. Unfortunately, Garza had the knockout blow.

Notes and Musings:

Red Sox @ Rays ALCS Game 7 Boxscore

Last night’s home plate umpire Daryl Cousins was not part of the umpiring crew tonight. Angel Hernandez was called in to replace him and was stationed in right field tonight.

This was the third time that Jon Lester started a game that will decide a post-season series for the Red Sox. In his starts in Game 4 of the 2007 World Series (win) and Game 4 of the 2008 ALDS (ND), Lester has combined to pitch 12.2 scoreless innings, allowing 7 hits.

At 24 years, 286 days, Lester is the 5th youngest LHP to ever start a playoff Game 7, youngest since St. Louis’ Joe Magrane at 23-115 in the 1987 WS vs. Minn.

This was just the 6th time that an ALCS has gone the distance since the best of 7 format was adopted in 1985. It is the 5th 7-game ALCS for the Red Sox, with wins in 1986 over the Angels, 2004 over the Yankees, and 2007 over the Indians and a loss in 2003 against New York.

Coming into tonight, Boston is 26-11 all-time in games in which it could have been eliminated from a post-season series. The Red Sox have won last 9 such ALCS games, 4 in 2004; 3 in 2007; and 2 in 2008 an ML LCS record. This will be the 12th time that the Red Sox have participated in a “winner take all” game in post-season play, the 10th in a best of 7 series. Boston is 6-5 in the deciding game but has won 2 straight and 5 of the last 7. In ALCS play, the Red Sox are 3-1 in such games, defeating the Angels in 1986, the Yankees in 2004, and the Indians in 2007 and losing to the Yankees in 2003.

Jonathan Papelbon has thrown 25.0 scoreless innings in 16 games, the most career playoff innings in history without allowing a run. This is 2nd longest scoreless innings streak to ever begin a post-season career to Christy Mathewson’s 28.0 IP from 1905-11 and longest overall playoff scoreless streak since Mariano Rivera’s ML record 33.1 innings from 1998-2000 (Source: Elias)

Justin Masterson’s 9 games in post-season are T5th most ever by a rookie, most for Red Sox rookie.

The 26 combined home runs by both teams is a new ALCS record.