The Tampa Bay Rays beat the Boston Red Sox 5-4 in Game 4 of their ALDS matchup, reducing Boston's series lead to 2-1.
What a wild and crazy (and often times, infuriating) game of baseball. The Red Sox jumped out to a 3-0 lead, with a rough inning by Alex Cobb in the fifth tacking on two runs. But the Rays came back in the bottom of the fifth thanks to a three-run homer by Evan Longoria that knotted the game at three. For the record, Longoria's home run probably would have been a double (at best) in Fenway. Cobb left after five, Clay Buchholz left after six, and then…things got weird.
In the top of the eighth inning, the Rays had to remove Wil Myers from the game due to cramping in both of his legs. Joe Maddon moved Matt Joyce to right field from DH, sacrificed the designated hitter for the rest of the game. Jake McGee allowed two runners to get on base in the inning with one out, but got a strikeout and a pop-up to end the inning. In the bottom of the eighth, Franklin Morales walked James Loney to lead the inning off. Sam Fuld pinch ran for Loney, and moved up to second after an infield single by Desmond Jennings on a sacrifice bunt that didn't go totally according to plan. Joyce popped up his bunt attempt for the first out, and Brandon Workman replaced Morales. Yunel Escobar then hit a grounder up the middle that was knocked down, but Boston couldn't get an out on the play. Delmon Young pinch hit for catcher Jose Molina, and grounded out to first, scoring Fuld to put the Rays in front heading into the ninth.
Jose Lobaton replaced Molina behind the plate and took Myers' spot in the lineup (previously occupied by McGee after Joyce was shifted to the outfield), and closer Fernando Rodney came in to seal the deal. Of course, nothing is ever easy for Rodney. With Joyce shifting back to left, Fuld taking up residence in right, and Sean Rodriguez moving to first, Rodney immediately walked Will Middlebrooks and allowed a bloop hit to Jacoby Ellsbury. Shane Victorino bunted pinch runner Xander Bogaerts and Ellsbury over, and Bogaerts came in to score on a ground out by Pedroia. The game went to the bottom of the ninth tied at four, and Koji Uehara retired Ben Zobrist and Longoria on a total of three pitches. That brought up Lobaton, and the backup catcher somehow, some way, obliterated a perfect Uehara pitch and deposited it in the manta ray tank in right center field at Tropicana Field.
To explain how ludicrous this turn of events was, I'll tell you this: this season, Uehara allowed a line of .115/.153/.185 to left-handers along with just one home run. The one home run came at the end of May off the bat of Domonic Brown, who ended up hitting .303/.303/.688 with 12 homers that month. That's all. The only time Uehara had been touched up by a lefty was more than four months ago by a guy who was in the midst of an absolute tear. And of course, it happens in a playoff game to end the game. Baseball is great.
Game 4 will take place at 8:37 PM on Tuesday in Tampa on TBS. Jake Peavy and Jeremy Hellickson are the scheduled starters for each club, but it's currently unknown if either John Farrell or Joe Maddon will start one of their better pitchers on short rest. We'll see, I guess.