BOSTON — The Red Sox brushed aside the 100-win Angels in four games, dismissing their best-in-baseball regular season as last month's news.
When it turns to October, no one dominates like Boston.
And now the defending world champion's path runs through Tropicana Field.
Jason Bay slid headfirst into home plate to score on rookie Jed Lowrie's two-out single in the ninth inning Monday night and the Red Sox eliminated the Los Angeles Angels with a 3-2 victory in Game 4 of their first-round playoff series.
Boston, which also won it all in 2004, will have a chance at a third title in five years if it can get past the Rays in the best-of-seven AL Championship Series that starts Friday night in St. Petersburg.
"We just beat a phenomenal team. We're going to play another phenomenal team," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. "It will be very exciting. We're looking forward to that. For right now, though, that's probably enough."
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.
Tampa Bay beat Boston by two games in the AL East this season. The teams beat each other up during a bench-clearing brawl at Fenway Park in June — the Rays and Red Sox have often scrapped over the years.
Los Angeles forced Game 4 with an extra-inning victory Sunday night that snapped an 11-game playoff losing streak against Boston.
As it turned out, that gave the Angels less than 24 extra hours.
Jon Lester held Los Angeles to four hits in seven shutout innings but lost his chance at a second victory in the series when the Angels scored twice in the eighth to tie it 2-all.
The Angels had a chance to go ahead in the ninth, but Erick Aybar, whose 12th-inning single was the winner in Game 3, missed on a suicide squeeze attempt, and Reggie Willits, trying to score from third, was caught by Boston catcher Jason Varitek.
"He's our anchor back there," Bay said of Varitek's play. "Running Reggie down, who's a fast runner, that speaks volumes. Our season could have been on the line, but (that play) turned it around, and boom, we got momentum back."
In the bottom half, Bay lofted a fly ball down the rightfield line that Willits dived 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.
"Curveball down in the zone," Lowrie said. "I know he's got a good one. I was just able to get the barrel on it."
Manny Delcarmen got two outs in the ninth for the win.
Dustin Pedroia's first hit of the postseason drove in Varitek, capping Boston's two-run fifth. Pedroia was 0-for-15 in the series before then.
"We have to keep trying to get better, that's all we can do," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "A lot of guys are frustrated right now. But I can't tell you how proud we are of the way our guys played the whole summer."