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Tuesday, October 8, 2013

No Reason To Panic, Yet. Red Sox Suffer Crushing 5-4 Walk-off Loss to Rays in Game 3

I think all rational Red Sox fans (an oxymoron if there ever was one) understood that they were playing with house money up 2-0 on the lifeless Rays. At least that's what I tell myself to help dull the pain of tonight's 5-4 win by Tampa Bay in Game 3 of the ALDS at Tropicana Field. Game 4 is back at that dump tomorrow night (8:37, TBS) as Jake Peavy faces Jeremy Hellickson.

If you picked the most unlikely scenario for the Rays to live to see another day, it couldn't top what actually happened: backup catcher Jose Lobaton hit a walk-off homer against Koji Uehara. Wait, what? There were plenty of twists and turns, what you'd expect from a nine-inning game that lasted 4:19 (!), but the bottom line is that this was a win that Boston let slip away.

They were up 3-0 in the fifth with unofficial ace Clay Buchholz (6 innings, 3 earned runs, 7 hits, 5 strikeouts, 3 walks) on the mound. That should be more than enough against the offensively-challenged Rays. Especially when they continue to give runs away like candy on Halloween (sort of topical!). Jacoby Ellsbury (3 hits, 2 runs, double, stolen base) scored in the first on Ben Zobrist's error and he made it 2-0 in the fifth on Alex Cobb's (5 innings, 3 runs, 2 earned, 5 hits, 5 strikeouts, 2 walks) wild pitch.

I'm not going to pretend I thought it was over when David Ortiz laced an opposite field RBI single later in the fifth for a 3-0 lead but I felt confident. There are always a boatload of decisions to second-guess when it comes to losses in the MLB playoffs and this was no different for Boston. No. 1 on the list was the choice to pitch to Evan Longoria-Tampa Bay's only dangerous hitter-with runners on second and third with two outs in the fifth. What do you know, he went deep to tie it at three.

The Rays actually pushed ahead 4-3 with a ground out by Delmon Young in the eighth but the Red Sox showed their toughness by tying it in the ninth with a ground out by Dustin Pedroia against shaky closer Fernando Rodney.

Tampa Bay had four more hits (11-7) than Boston led by James Loney (3 for 3, double, walk), David Dejesus (2 hits, double, run) and Yunel Escobar (2 hits, run). No team in MLB successfully gets more out of scrubs than the Rays, it's remarkable year after year.

Naturally we'll spend Tuesday completely miserable and wallowing in all the mistakes by the Red Sox, conveniently forgetting that they are still in control up 2-1 with home-field advantage (hopefully they don't need it). It would have been much easier to get rid of the Rays this evening but they're not the Braves; they have pride and heart so it'll take a big effort to knock them out.

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