Things just got a lot more interesting.
The Red Sox entered Monday’s Game 3 in Tampa Bay with a 2-0 series lead. Then, they jumped out to a 3-0 lead on the scoreboard with Clay Buchholz toeing the rubber. Everything was looking up for those in the Boston dugout. The only problem was that the Rays were in the opposing dugout.
The Rays have fought tooth and nail just to get into their current situation, so there was no way that Joe Maddon’s scrappy squad was going to go down without a fight. And not only did the Rays make a game of it Monday, but they also lived to see another day by virtue of a Jose Lobaton walk-off homer against Koji Uehara.
Yes, you read that last part correctly. Uehara, who has been so dominant all season, gave up a long ball to Lobaton with the score tied 4-4 with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning. The Red Sox will now try to eliminate the Rays on Tuesday, with Jake Peavy and Jeremy Hellickson squaring off in Game 4 at Tropicana Field.
Before we shift our full attention to Game 4, let’s unload the Game 3 notebook.
“And then I was walking to home plate and I said, ‘Well, I’m going to try to hit the ball hard, try to get a double. I don’t need a single,’” Lobaton said. “First pitch, he threw me a split. And I said I’ve got to be more back. And he threw me the next pitch, I hit the ball hard and said I think I’ve got it. But they said keep running, keep running.”
“I swear I was looking down on my card and you’re preparing for what’s going to happen,” Maddon said. “Their pitchers are so good. And then I hear that thing you hear on the radio back in the day when you’re listening to the Cardinals on KMOX, laying on the floor in Hazleton, Penn., that knock. And look up and the ball is going towards the tank, which nobody hits home runs there. Nobody does. How about that? It’s incredible.”
“All these things, if you want to go on probable, look at the probability of it. If you work out his abilities versus that pitcher’s abilities, what’s been going on. If you’re going to bet some bucks on that, you’re going to lose, it’s not normally going to happen,” Maddon said. “He climbed all over that. It was down, but he got the head of the bat on it and the rest is Rays’ history. It’s really an incredible game to participate in.”
Lobaton typically receives a cup of ice cream for each of his home runs. Following a walk-off home run earlier this season, Maddon bought Lobaton a tub of ice cream while the catcher’s teammates gave him 10 additional ice creams. We can probably expect a similar haul of frozen treats this time around.
“I think every homer that I’ve been hitting it’s been pretty good ice cream. But today was amazing,” Lobaton said. “I think the second homer, the second walk‑off that I hit, they gave me like 20 ice creams, something like that. It was pretty good. But today, it’s postseason, it’s different. But it was pretty good. If I can just keep hitting, maybe I’m going to get fat.”
“Well, when you’re down by three and that inning was — we never give up. Never,” Lobaton said when describing the mood before Longoria’s blast. “But we kind of a little bit down, a little bit, well, now we’ve got to score three more runs. And after we saw that — the ball out, it’s kind of like the energy came back. Everybody was kind of like, we’ve got a chance now. We’ve got a chance.”
Farrell said after the game that he gave “no consideration” to walking Longoria in that situation. But perhaps the Red Sox should have at least considered more of an unintentional intentional walk and pitched around the slugger in that spot.
Pinch running Berry in that spot with the score tied 3-3 was a gamble. There was always a chance that Ortiz’s spot in the order could come up again, yet Farrell decided to leave no stone unturned in pursuit of the go-ahead run in that eighth inning.
“Yeah, we do [wrestle with the decision]. And in that situation in the eighth inning, feeling like that’s — not knowing if his spot is going to come back around, didn’t want to miss an opportunity,” Farrell said. “Berry does his job, gets the stolen base. Unfortunately, we got a man in scoring position with one out, a strikeout and a popup against [Jake] McGee. But, no, I don’t second‑guess that pinch run move there.”
“No, McGee has been dominant against right‑handed hitters,” Farrell said. “He’s almost a right‑handed reliever in some ways because of the strong reverse splits he has. Stephen is a good fastball hitter. We know McGee is going to come at us with 95 percent fastballs, if not more. There was no hesitation to leave Stephen at the plate.”
Righties hit .217 with a .648 OPS against McGee this season. Lefties hit .235 with a .678 OPS.
First, the Rays could have walked Pedroia. First base was open with one out, and the Rays could have put Pedroia aboard to face Mike Carp and, more importantly, set up a potential game-ending double play.
Secondly, the Rays played the infield back. If the infield had been brought in, Yunel Escobar likely would have fielded Pedroia’s grounder in on the grass and kept Bogaerts, who pinch ran for Will Middlebrooks, at third base.
“There’s a lot of stuff going on on that moment,” Maddon said after the game. “If you walk Pedroia, you have the bases loaded. Carp was going to hit for Berry, all of this stuff was nasty stuff. For me, it was just not about not losing the lead. At least if it’s a tie, we’ve got a shot.”
“Another guy with playoff experience. He’s pitched well here in Tampa. He got three innings of work this past Wednesday, so even though it’s been a number of days since his last start, we’re looking forward to Jake being on the mound [in Game 4],” Farrell said. “It’s one of the main reasons we acquired him at the deadline is to pitch in a game like tomorrow night.”