Red Sox set rematch with Astros

Christian Vazquez of the Boston Red Sox hits a solo home run in the fourth inning against the New York Yankees during Game 4 American League Division Series at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx borough of New York City Tuesday. — AFP

NEW YORK — Christian

Vazquez smashed a home run and the Boston Red Sox held off a ninth-inning rally to beat the archrival New York Yankees 4-3 on Tuesday and advance in the Major League Baseball playoffs.

Boston grabbed a 4-0 lead but the Yankees scored twice in the ninth against Red Sox closing relief pitcher Craig Kimbrel, who enticed Gleyber Torres into a game-ending and series-deciding ground out that was upheld on video review.

“I was just praying to God he was out,” said Boston’s Rick Porcello, who threw five innings to get the victory. “I was just trying to throw strikes and attack these guys.”

The Red Sox captured the best-of-five American League division series three games to one, setting up a showdown with the defending champion Houston Astros in the best-of-seven American League Championship Series, a rematch of last year’s ALCS.

The Houston-Boston winner will advance to the World Series to play for the championship against the National League winner, either the Milwaukee Brewers or Los Angeles Dodgers.

The Red Sox, who led the major leagues with 108 wins this year, are seeking their fourth title in 15 seasons and first since 2013.

The Astros, second in wins with 103, beat the Dodgers in last year’s World Series and will try to become the first team to win back-to-back crowns since the Yankees took three in a row from 1998-2000. The Yankees, coming off a 16-1 home thrashing one night earlier, fell behind quickly again, surrendering three runs in the third inning.

Boston’s Andrew Benintendi reached base after being hit by a pitch from New York starter C.C. Sabathia, took third on Steve Pearce’s single to centerfield and scored the game’s opening run on a sacrifice fly by J.D. Martinez.

Pearce took second on a ground out to Sabathia, went to third on a wild pitch by Sabathia and scored on Ian Kinsler’s double off the left-field wall. Kinsler then scored on an Eduardo Nunez single to left for a 3-0 Boston lead.

The Red Sox were 11-0 this year against the Yankees in prior games they led by three runs and 85-5 in all games when going ahead by three.

Vazquez homered in the fourth for a 4-0 advantage but the host Yankees answered in the fifth, a Brett Gardner sacrifice fly out allowing Gary Sanchez to score from third to end the shutout bid.

Red Sox left-handed starter Chris Sale entered in the eighth as a reliever and retired the Yankees in order, but there was plenty of drama remaining. In the ninth, Kimbrel walked Yankees leadoff hitter Aaron Judge, then surrendered a single to Didi Gregorius.

Kimbrel struck out Giancarlo Stanton but walked Luke Voit to load the bases and then hit Neil Walker to force in a run, pulling New York within 4-2.

Gary Sanchez followed with a sacrifice fly to left field to score Gregorius from third, but Torres grounded out to third base to end the game. — AFP