If the Tampa Bay Rays beating the Boston Red Sox 5-4 to get their first win of their ALDS series, staying alive in the playoffs, is about one moment, it has to be Jose Lobaton coming on to hit a walk off home run in the ninth. If it’s about more than that, it was the Rays finally being able to keep the Red Sox bats from getting their usual hot.
These moments don’t really happen a lot for the Rays. It was the first ever walk-off home run for the franchise, and only the second walk-off win, with the first coming in 2008, with B.J. Upton beating the Red Sox.
It didn’t start all that well for the Rays, who were down very early after Jacoby Ellsbury scored thanks to an error by Ben Zobrist. Things got worse in the fifth as Ellsbury scored again after a wild pitch by Alex Cobb, followed by David Ortiz hitting a single that gave Shane Victorino the chance to reach home.
But then the improbable happened: Evan Longoria hit a three-run homer off of Clay Buchholz, the same Buchholz he failed to hit a home run against in 36 career starts, including the first two of game 3. After a few tense innings, the Rays took the lead, as Delmon Young grounded out to first coming in to pinch hit for Jose Molina, which brought home Sam Fuld, coming in to pinch run. The Red Sox got things all even through Dustin Pedroia, but the last word was left for Lobaton.
A lot of good words go to the Rays’ relieving crew, keeping the Red Sox on only two hits through the final two innings. Fernando Rodney did blow the save by giving up the hit to Pedroia, but he also got the win thanks to Lobaton.
The question is if the Rays can keep up this kind of pitching to give themselves some kind of chance? It’s not everyday that the Red Sox are only 7-of-33, going a horrible 2-of-14 with runners in scoring positions and leaving nine men on base. They do have Jeremy Hellickson starting in game 4, and in three starts against the Red Sox this season he is 1-0 with a 3.44 ERA and allowing them to hit only .209 against him, making it a pretty good option to keep this series going a bit longer.
The Red Sox tried not to make too much of Koji Uehara losing the game for them with that pitch to Lobaton, but they did seem quite stunned they actually lost one in this series, especially after hitting so well in Fenway. It remains to be seen if game 3 was just a glitch or actually the Rays finding the right formula to slow them down.