The Rays have forced a Game 4 in the ALDS thanks to a walkoff homer from Jose Lobaton off of none other than Koji Uehara.
While it would come down to Lobaton's bomb, there are plenty of moments for the Red Sox to look back on as either huge missed opportunities, or huge mistakes.
One such opportunity would come in the fourth. After scoring the opening run of the game in the first on an errant throw to first from Ben Zobrist, trying to turn a double play, the Red Sox set themselves up to add to their lead in the fourth by putting runners on the corners with just one down. Jarrod Saltalamacchia came up to the plate needing just a good fly ball, but couldn't so much as make contact, leaving Stephen Drew to ground out to end the inning.
While Boston would manage to tack on two more runs in the fifth, with Jacoby Ellsbury scoring on a wild pitch and Shane Victorino crossing home thanks to a David Ortiz single, all their good work in the first half of the game would be undone in an instant. Clay Buchholz, to that point, had been a little shaky, but had avoided allowing any runs, even managing to work around a fourth-inning bases loaded situation that had been the product of more than a little bad luck and a few bad calls to go with it.
The fifth, however, was less about bad luck than bad pitching. To be fair, the first baserunner came on an infield single from Yunel Escobar. The second, however, was David DeJesus, hitting a rocket to the right field wall that put two men on with just one down. While Ben Zobrist wasn't up to the task of bringing either in, popping up to short, Buchholz threw Evan Longoria an 0-1 changeup inside and waist high. Goodbye. Longoria cleared the wall in left and just like that it was 3-3.
The two teams would exchange scoreless innings until the eighth, and that's when everything got really weird. And awful. Mostly awful. Awful like putting a man in scoring position with nobody out and never so much as moving him to third. Awful like not pinch-hitting Xander Bogaerts for Stephen Drew against a lefty in that same inning despite Drew's sub-.600 OPS against lefties.
Awful like completely melting down defensively as an infield to allow the go-ahead run to score. Three times the Red Sox managed to bungle ground balls. Once with one on and no outs, when Desmond Jennings bunted back to Franklin Morales and neither Napoli nor Pedroia covered first in time. Once with two on and one down when both Dustin Pedroia and Stephen Drew went for a ground ball up the middle, the former ending up getting in the latter's way, leaving everybody safe. And finally against the very next batter, with the bases now loaded, Mike Napoli letting Sam Fuld come into score as he clutched for the ball in his glove after making a diving stop.
Still, despite one of Boston's greatest strengths this year suddenly falling apart, the Red Sox managed to rally, they put the first two men on in the ninth against a wild Fernando Rodney, then after a Shane Victorino bunt it was Dustin Pedroia grounding out to short to bring the tying run across. The game was back on, tied in the top of the ninth, and then just as suddenly over in the bottom. Because the strangest, most awful thing of all was Koji Uehara, having retired the first two batters he faced on three pitches, gave Jose Lobaton a good splitter--one of those ones that have baffled hitters all year long--and Lobaton hit it into the Ray tank in center field. Ball game.
It's still a 2-1 lead in the series for the Red Sox, but with David Price on the horizon for a potential Game 5, there's no question that tomorrow's game is hugely important. A 2-2 tie is just one loss away, and after tonight, the Sox will really have to dust themselves off in a big way before taking the field again.
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