ST. PETERSBURG – A home run in the bottom of the ninth kept Tampa Bay alive, as the Rays won Game 3 of the American League Division Series, 5-4, Monday night at Tropicana Field.
Leadoff batters for the Rays and Red Sox got base hits, but Boston was the only team to send their runner home, thanks to a missed throw by Ben Zobrist earning the Rays an error. Boston took the lead early, ending the first inning on top by one.
Rays starting pitcher Alex Cobb kept Boston shut down through the next two innings, before walking David Ortiz and allowing Mike Napoli a hit, putting two men on base with no outs in the top of the fourth. A pop fly advanced Ortiz to third, but Tampa Bay held the line, keeping Boston in check to stop the threat.
Tampa Bay went for a comeback in the fourth with Zobrist taking a walk to start the inning. James Loney hit a single with two outs, before Boston's starting pitcher Clay Buchholz walked Desmond Jennings to load the bases. But, Matt Joyce struck out, leaving the Rays hungry.
Jocoby Ellsbury got a double with only one out for Boston in the fifth followed by a single by Shane Victorino. A wild pitch at the plate with Dustin Pedroia at bat, allowed Ellsbury to score a second time Monday night. Pedroia hit a short hop to mid-field for the second out, bringing David Ortiz to the plate. Ortiz hit a single, bringing another runner home, to put Boston on top 3-0.
Yunel Escobar hit a single giving the Rays a base runner to start the fifth. Catcher Jose Molina was out on a pop fly to center field. David DeJesus kept the Rays alive with a double, advancing Escobar to third.
Ben Zobrist hit a pop fly for the second out, bringing Evan Longoria to the batter's box.
Longoria brought the home crowd to its feet with a home run, tying the game, 3-3. Will Meyers drew a walk to keep the Rays going. James Loney followed with a single, but Jennings hit a pop fly for out three.
Rays came back to the sixth with Alex Torres on the mound. Torres led off with a strike out before Jarrod Saltalamacchia hit a single, giving Boston a runner. Steven Drew hit a pop fly for out two. Torres came back to strike out Will Middlebrooks, ending the inning.
Buchholz kept his position on the mound in the sixth. Joyce, Escobar and Molina all hit fly balls, quickly ending the inning. Jo Peralta took over the pitching job in the seventh for the Rays, keeping Boston scoreless.
Craig Breslow came to the mound for Boston in the seventh. DeJesus hit a pop fly for out one. Zobrist hit a single and Boston changed pitchers, bringing in Junichi Tazawa. A wild pitch at the plate advanced Zobrist to second base. Longoria hit a pop fly for out two. Tazawa struck out Meyers, leaving the go-ahead run stranded on second.
Meyers left the game with cramping in both legs, forcing Joyce to take over in left field in the eighth, robbing Tampa Bay of its designated hitter.
Jake McGee took over the pitching for the Rays, walking Ortiz to start the eight. Quintin Berry, the pitch runner for Ortiz, stole second, drawing a protest from Rays' coach Joe Maddon. Napoli hit a short bounce for the first out. Boston sent in Jonny Gomes, who drew an intentional walk. McGee struck out Saltalamacchia and Stephen Drew hit a pop fly to end the inning.
Boston sent Franklin Morales to the mound in the bottom of the eight. Loney started the batting order, drawing a walk. Sam Fuld entered the game to run for Loney. Jennings' bunted to gain first base and Fuld advanced to second, giving the Rays two runners with no outs. Joyce tried the bunt, but popped up foul for the first out. Boston brought Brandon Workman in to pitch against Escobar, who hit a single to load the bases.
Rays sent in Young to hit for Molina, who hit a ground out to first, sending Fuld home, advancing the runners and putting the Rays on top by one. Sean Rodriguez hit a pop fly to end the inning, stranding two.
The Rays led by one, 4-3, at the beginning of the ninth Tampa Bay sent pitcher Fernando Rodney in to do battle. Middlebrooks drew a walk to lead off. Ellsbury hit a single, giving Boston two runners with no outs. Victorino's bunt bought the first out and advanced the runners. Pedroia's hit drew the second out, but sent Middlebrooks home, tying the game 4-4.
Tampa Bay's offense took over the battlefield in the bottom of the ninth, with the goal of clinching the win. Boston's Koji Uehara took over the mound to defend. Everyone was thinking overtime when the first two Rays batters drew an out. Then Jose Lobaton hit a solo home run to hand the Rays a 5-4-win and keep the team alive in postseason play.
The victory was a great birthday gift for Cobb celebrating his 26th birthday and Longoria who turned 28 on Monday.
Boston Red Sox won the first two games of the American League Division Series at Fenway Park, outscoring the Rays 12-2 in the first and 7-4, in the second. Monday night's game was a must-win for the Rays. Tuesday’s game at St. Petersburg is set to start at 8:30 p.m.