Red Sox - 100 020 001 - 4 7 0 Rays - 000 030 011 - 5 11 1
After Evan Longoria's three-run dong tied the game in the fifth, the Rays took the lead in the eighth without hitting the ball out of the infield. Facing Franklin Morales, James Loney (who had been 3-for-3) walked. Desmond Jennings dropped a bunt down the first base line, but both Morales and Mike Napoli charged the ball and Jennings won the race to the bag. Matt Joyce fouled out to Jarrod Saltalamacchia on another bunt attempt. Brandon Workman came in and gave up an infield single to Yunel Escobar; Stephen Drew gloved it, but collided behind second base with an overeager Dustin Pedroia, who was also hoping to make a play. That loaded the bases - and pinch-runner Sam Fuld scored on pinch-hitter Delmon Young's groundout to first.
Rays' closer Fernando Rodney came in for the top of the ninth - and Red Sox fans cheered, because Mr. Crooked Flat Brim is a virtual gas can against Boston. Sure enough, Rodney could not buy a strike in the entire inning. He walked Will Middlebrooks on five pitches; Xander Bogaerts pinch-ran. And he fell behind Jacoby Ellsbury 2-0 before LBJ flared a single out into short left field. Shane Victorino took a ball before sacrificing the runners to second and third. Bogaerts scored the tying run on Pedroia's groundout to shortstop. Ellsbury then stole third with pinch-hitter Mike Carp at the plate. Carp struck out, however, looking at strikes two and three.
In the bottom of the ninth, Koji was crusing, as usual. He needed one pitch to retire Ben Zobrist on a 3-1 ground ball. Evan Longoria flew out to center on a 1-0 offering. After Lobaton swung and missed, he shocked the Sox by launching his game-winning dong.
Boston scored in the first inning against Alex Cobb (5-5-3-2-5, 94). Ellsbury snuck an opposite field single into left to begin the game; Shane Victorino was plunked with a pitch. Pedroia forced Victorino at second, but Shane went into second hard (again) and Zobrist's relay to first was wild, and Ellsbury scored.
Ellsbury got the fifth-inning rally started, too. With one out, he doubled down the right field line, on a ball that glanced off Loney's glove at first. Victorino reached on an infield hit to the shortstop. Ellsbury scored on a wild pitch and Victorino scored on David Ortiz's single to left.
Clay Buchholz (6-7-3-3-5, 104) was not sharp. He allowed a leadoff double in the second and was helped out when Jennings lined to first and Napoli doubled Loney off second. In the fourth, Buchholz threw 34 pitches, walking two batters and allowing a single, and leaving the bases loaded. He allowed four hits and three runs in the fifth, the killing blow being the two-out dong fro Longoria. Red Sox manager John Farrell brought Buchholz out for the sixth, despite Clay having thrown 57 pitches in the previous two innings. He got his second 1-2-3 inning of the night, needing only seven pitches to retire the side.
Ellsbury finished the game with three hits and is 8-for-14 in the three games. ... David Ortiz singled and walked three times.
Game 4 is at 8:30 tomorrow night.
Ellsbury, CFRead Chad Finn and get pumped for tonight's potential ALDS-clinching game.
Two games and two stirring Red Sox victories into this postseason, I've got one conclusion that I'm not going to hesitate to draw:
The Red Sox, winners of 97 games in the regular season, still have not peaked, a phenomenon that leaves them with as good a chance -- hell, go ahead and make it a better chance -- than any of the eight remaining teams to win the World Series.
They're the favorites, my friends. That's the truth. The Red Sox are the best team in baseball. ...
They're a machine. A slugging, unified, relentless, efficient machine. A very possibly invincible machine. With a beard. ...
The first pitch hasn't been thrown in St. Petersburg yet, and already it feels like this series is over. Don't fight the feeling. There's no letdown on the horizon.
These Red Sox have a knack for defeating great pitchers and meeting great expectations all at once.