Fighting for their playoff lives, things didn’t start out so well for the Tampa Bay Rays who immediately found themselves in trouble against the Boston Red Sox in Game 3 of their Divisional Series.
Down two games to none, the Rays almost instantly fell behind as the Red Sox scored a first inning run thanks to a leadoff hit from Jacoby Ellsbury. That was followed by a Shane Victorino hit by pitch and a Dustin Pedroia fielders choice, which thanks to an error allowed Ellsbury to score.
Things calmed down for a few innings until the Red Sox struck again, this time scoring two more runs, one of which came off a wild pitch from Rays starter Alex Cobb. It seemed as if the inner walls of Tropicana Field were crumbling at the feet of the Rays who were four innings away from elimination, down 3-0.
But October is where hero’s are born and Evan Longoria is no stranger to being a savior.
With two runners on, the Rays franchise bat sent a two out pitch from Clay Buchholz over the outfield wall, evening up the game at 3-3 where the scored remained until the bottom of the eighth inning when the Rays scored in the most comical of fashions.
After the first two runners of the inning reached base, Matt Joyce was ask to sacrifice bunt in hopes of moving the runners to second and third. He couldn’t get the job done, fouling out to the catcher. That allowed Yunel Escobar to hit a soft chopper up the middle where both Boston middle infielders reacted and went for the ball, leaving nobody to cover second base for the force out. Then, with the bases loaded, Delmon Young hit a relatively slow ground ball to first where Boston first baseman Mike Napoli took the sure out at first rather than risking a play at the plate (despite it being a force out).
Unfortunately for the Rays, it was a lead they were unable to keep as closer Fernando Rodney, who is no stranger to on-field trouble immediately allowed the first two runners to reach base where a Shane Victorino sacrifice bunt moved them to second and third. A RBI ground out from Dustin Pedroia plated the game tying run before Rodney was able to escape the jam, sending it to the bottom of the ninth in a 4-4 tie.
Thankfully, the frustration and disappointment for Tampa Bay was short lived as after the Red Sox recorded two relatively easy outs in the bottom of the ninth, Rays catcher Jose Lobaton hit a walk-off home run to right field, preserving the win.
Both teams will square off Tuesday evening in Game 4, Boston looking to advance to the American League Championship while Tampa Bay will be looking to extend the series back to Boston for a winner-take-all Game 5.