BOSTON — Tampa Bay found out that the final nine outs to advance to the World Series remain the most difficult, even with a seven-run lead.
In a span of three innings, Boston resurrected its slim hopes in a dramatic manner Thursday night with eight runs in the final three innings in Game 5 of the American League Championship Series at Fenway Park for an 8-7 victory.
J.D. Drew's single off J.P. Howell with two outs in the ninth scored Kevin Youkilis from second with the winning run.
David Ortiz snapped a 15-game homerless streak in the post-season with a three-run homer off reliever Grant Balfour in the seventh, and Coco Crisp capped a 10-pitch at-bat with a two-out, game-tying single off Dan Wheeler in the eighth.
Crisp's hit occurred shortly after Drew had a two-run homer that rejuvenated a once-silent crowd as the Red Sox closed their deficit to 3-2. They are attempting to overcome a 3-1 deficit in the best-of-seven ALCS for the fourth time in their history, including last year's playoff against the Indians.
The Rays had a 7-0 lead after 6½ innings.
They were on the verge of joining the 1914 Boston Braves and the 2006 Detroit Tigers in reaching the World Series after suffering at least 10 consecutive losing seasons.
The Rays relied on three home runs to vault to their lead. Their 13 home runs set an ALCS record, surpassing Boston's previous record of 12 set in a seven-game series in 2003 against the New York Yankees.
Tampa Bay pounded Boston's pitching staff as if it knew what pitches were being thrown.
The Rays knocked out Daisuke Matsuzaka, who pitched seven shutout innings against them in Game 1 and had won three consecutive postseason starts, by the fifth inning.
B.J. Upton led the charge with a two-run homer in the first to extend his post-season total to six, and he added a two-run double off closer Jonathan Papelbon in the seventh that prompted several Red Sox fans to head for the exits.
But Papelbon, who relieved a struggling Manny Delcarmen to start the seventh, pitched a scoreless eighth to make the Red Sox's comeback possible.
Upton needed only five games to become the seventh player in ALCS history to drive in at least 10 runs.
Carlos Pena, who transformed his career from a journeyman to a formidable slugger with the Rays after signing a minor-league contract in 2007, hit his third homer in as many games—a two-run shot in the third.
But AL rookie of the year candidate Evan Longoria quickly upstaged Pena by slugging a solo shot and became the first player in ALCS history to hit a home run in four consecutive games.
Rays left-hander Scott Kazmir walked two in the first inning but rewarded Joe Maddon by blanking Boston through six innings, allowing his manager's gamble in passing up ace James "Big Game" Shields to pay off.
But Kazmir threw 111 pitches, forcing Maddon to employ his bullpen before he wanted and now Shields will start Saturday night's Game 6 at Tampa Bay.
Ortiz's homer was his first in the playoffs since Game 4 of the 2007 ALCS in Cleveland.
It was also his 12th postseason homer with the Red Sox, surpassing Manny Ramirez for the most in team history.