Rays force Game 4 with walk-off win over Red Sox

With team on verge of elimination, Lobaton sends one into the tank

October 7th, 2013

ST. PETERSBURG -- Jose Lobaton gave Tropicana Field that "Game 162" feeling all over again, as his walk-off homer in the ninth delivered the Rays a 5-4 win over the Red Sox in Game 3 of the American League Division Series.

The blast came off Red Sox closer Koji Uehara, with two outs, and kept the Rays' postseason alive. They still trail the series, 2-1, but the win forced Game 4, which will be played on Tuesday night at Tropicana Field at 8:30 ET on TBS.

Tropicana Field was the site of Evan Longoria's memorable walk-off home run in Game 162 on the final day of the 2011 season, a blast that propelled the Rays into the postseason. Lobaton's blast on Monday ignited a similar frenzy among the raucous sellout crowd of 33,675, which felt ecstasy -- and relief -- at not having to see their team pack the bats for the winter.

"Jose does have a flair for the dramatic," manager Joe Maddon said. "He's done that a couple of times now. … It's incredible what he's done. What an interesting, wonderful game to stay solvent with."

The home run was Lobaton's third walk-off hit of the season and the Rays' 14th, and it couldn't have come at a better time, since it followed Fernando Rodney's blown save in the top half of the inning.

"I was walking to home plate, and I said, 'Well, I'm going to try and 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.'"

The ball landed in the Rays Touch Tank for the team's first homer into the 35-foot, 10,000-gallon structure, which contains rays caught in Tampa Bay. Before that only the Tigers' Miguel Cabrera (2013) and the Dodgers' Luis Gonzalez (2007) had turned the trick.

"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, lying on the floor in [my hometown of] Hazleton, Pa., that knock. And I look up and the ball is going toward the tank -- whock! -- nobody hits home runs there. Nobody does. How about that? That's incredible."

Uehara called the experience "a hard thing to swallow."

"The team had just come back, and I wanted to give them an opportunity to get back on the field," Uehara said. "It's something that's in the past already, so I'm not going to think about it. … As long as the hitter has a bat in his hands, that happens."

Lobaton's home run trumped the three-run shot Evan Longoria hit earlier in the game, but just barely. The Rays were trailing, 3-0, when Longoria, who celebrated his 28th birthday on Monday, homered off Red Sox starter Clay Buchholz in the fifth to set the table for the comeback.

Yes, Lobaton's was the winning hit, but Longoria's gave the Rays the lift they needed.

"We never give up, never, but we kind of got a little bit down, [thinking], 'Now we've got to score three more runs,'" Lobaton said. "After we saw [Longoria's home run] go out, everybody was kind of like, 'We have a chance now.'"

Longoria joined Willie Mays Aikens as the only players in Major League history to homer in the postseason on their birthday. He allowed that his home run was a pretty nice present.

"I think any time you're playing in October and your birthday is in October, it's a pretty good birthday in itself," Longoria said. "Coming into the game, I just -- I just wanted to play a good, solid team game overall and be able to come out on top. And just to be able to … come through in that moment makes it all the more special."

Until Longoria's home run, the game had been all Red Sox.

"Buchholz is pitching his typical game here," Maddon said. "We cannot do anything with him. We get some guys on base, he would make a pitch, and then finally Longo got it, finally Longo got him. And then it ties it up right there, and all of a sudden, it's a different world."

Buchholz, who had not given up a run in two starts against the Rays this season, allowed three on seven hits in a no-decision.

Meanwhile, the Rays' other birthday celebrant on Monday, Alex Cobb, made his second start of the postseason after picking up the win on Wednesday night against the Indians in the Wild Card Game at Cleveland.

Looking for good karma as he turned 26, Cobb did not get much, as the Red Sox scored three runs on his five-inning watch, but just two were earned, and he also came away with a no-decision.

After Cobb departed, the Rays got a solid effort from the bullpen. Alex Torres and Joel Peralta cruised through the sixth and seventh innings before Jake McGee encountered some trouble in the eighth.

David Ortiz drew a walk off McGee to lead off the inning, and Quintin Berry came on to pinch-run. With Mike Napoli at the plate, Berry attempted to steal second. Second-base umpire Larry Vanover called him safe, but replays showed that he appeared to be out.

Maddon argued, with no success. One out later, pinch-hitter Jonny Gomes was intentionally walked. McGee then escaped the inning by striking out Jarrod Saltalamacchia and getting Stephen Drew on a popout to third.

Tampa Bay took the lead in the bottom of the eighth when pinch-hitter Delmon Young grounded out to first with the bases loaded, but Rodney could not protect the one-run lead, as Dustin Pedroia grounded out to score pinch-runner Xander Bogaerts from third and tie the score at 4.

That set the stage for Lobaton, who is fed ice cream by his teammates whenever he goes deep.

"I think the second homer, the second walk-off that I hit [this season], they gave me, like, 20 ice creams, something like that, it was pretty good," he said. "But today it's the postseason, it's different. But it was pretty good. If I can just keep hitting, maybe I'm going to get fat."

Lobaton indulged himself with a modest chuckle. Walk-off homers and that "162" feeling will let you do that.