ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Welcome to The Season That Just Won't Die.
The Tampa Bay Rays are alive and well and back at Tropicana Field for at least one more game in 2013.
Jose Lobaton, who came in for defense during the top of the ninth inning, launched a two-out solo home run into the touch tank in right center field as the Rays beat the Boston Red Sox 5-4 in Game 3 of the American League Division Series.
"I hit the ball hard," said Lobaton, whose homer came off Koji Uehara, baseball's best closer over the last two months. "And I said, 'Wow, I think I got it.'"
The teams meet again 8:37 p.m. Tuesday for Game 4, with Jeremy Hellickson going for the Rays against the Red Sox righty Jake Peavy.
No Red Sox sweep. No tough-to-swallow defeat. And no more postseason losing streak at home -- Monday's victory was the Rays' first at the Trop in the postseason since Game 2 of the 2008 World Series.
"Toward the tank -- nobody hits one there. Nobody does," said Rays manager Joe Maddon. "How incredible that Jose does that.
"What an interesting, wonderful game to stay solvent with."
And it almost never happened.
The Rays trailed 3-0 after four innings and looked punchless. And it didn't help that Boston starter Clay Buchholz hadn't allowed a run to them in 17 innings dating back to the regular season.
But Evan Longoria changed all that.
The face of the Rays' franchise lifted a two-out, game-tying three-run home run in the fifth, igniting a sold-out crowd of 33,675 at Tropicana Field.
"Everybody's looking to that guy to lead you, and he did," Maddon said. "He put us back in the race.
"He ties it up right there and it's different world."
Thanks to the bullpen work of Alex Torres, Joel Peralta and Jake McGee, who stranded two runners in the eighth when he struck out Jared Saltalamacchia and got Stephen Drew to pop out, that's how the scored stayed until the Rays mounted a smallball rally in the eigth.
After loading the bases on two infield hits and a walk, the Rays took the lead when Delmon Young, pinch-hitting for Jose Molina, hit a grounder that was gloved by first baseman Mike Napoli.
Napoli went to throw home but decided to just tag first instead, and pinch-runner Sam Fuld darted in with the go-ahead run.
With the righty Buccholz pitching, Maddon decided to use left-handed Matt Joyce as his designated hitter. But after rightfielder Wil Myers left the game with cramping in his legs, Joyce went to play right, costing the Rays their DH.
Had Myers' legs not cramped, Young probably would have pinch hit for Joyce and Molina would have stayed in, meaning Lobaton wouldn't have even been in the game to deliver the Rays' biggest hit of the season.
Of course, the only reason Lobaton got a chance to hit was because of Fernando Rodney's misstep in the ninth. After blowing eight saves in the regular season, Rodney squandered another lead when he walked Wil Middlebrooks and allowed Jacoby Ellsbury's bloop single to open the night.
After Shane Victorino bunted pinch-runner Xander Bogaerts to third and Ellsbury to second, Dustin Pedroia grounded to shortstop Yunel Escobar, who chose to get the sure out at first while Bogaerts scored.
Maddon had decided to play the infield at regular depth rather than draw it in for a possible play at home.
"That was a difficult choice right there," Maddon said. "Normally we side on the side of aggressiveness or boldness. I thought right there, under those circumstances, it was best to concede one run and live for the bottom of the ninth inning."
After a wild pitch moved Ellsbury to third, Rodney struck out pinch-runner Mike Carp looking.
The Red Sox took the lead in the first when Ellsbury singled and scored on second baseman Ben Zobrist's throwing error on a fielder's choice. Boston added two more in the fifth when Ellsbury scored on a wild pitch and David Ortiz beat the shift by grounding an RBI single to left.
Yet Buchholz couldn't make it stand. And the Rays, who have four win-or-go-home games in the last eight days, will live to see another day.
"Look at this whole week working up to today," Maddon said, "and this game is even more dramatic than the games we've already won. It's really an incredible day for the Rays. ... It really is an incredible game to participate in."
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