ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The Red Sox, to a man, said they were not shocked at how Game 3 of their American League Division Series against the Tampa Bay Rays ended on Monday night.
That’s baseball, they said time after time, one after another in a clubhouse that was pin-drop quiet.
“It can be a crazy game,” David Ortiz said.
But usually not like this. The Red Sox were beaten, 5-4, when backup catcher Jose Lobaton came off the Tampa Bay bench and hit a long home run off sure-thing closer Koji Uehara with two outs in the ninth inning.
The shot deflected off the glove of a fan and into a tank of rays beyond the fence just to the right of center field. The baseball-playing Rays mobbed Lobaton at home plate, their season extended at least another day.
Game 4 will be Tuesday night at 8:37 back at Tropicana Field. The Red Sox lead the best-of-five series, 2-1. The Sox’ Jake Peavy will face Jeremy Hellickson.
“I wish we had won the game. But I’ll be ready to pitch,” Peavy said. “This team will be ready. We’ll bounce back.”
It won’t be easy. The Red Sox, ahead 3-0 with Clay Buchholz, saw the desperate Rays score four runs to take a 4-3 lead going into the top of the ninth inning.
Evan Longoria belted a three-run homer off Buchholz in the fifth inning. The Rays then used a walk, two infield singles, and a ground out by pinch hitter Delmon Young to score the go-ahead run in the eighth.
The Red Sox tied the game against Rays closer Fernando Rodney in the ninth.
Will Middlebrooks drew a walk and was replaced by pinch runner Xander Bogaerts. Jacoby Ellsbury (3 for 5 and now 8 for 14 in the series) followed with a bloop single. After Shane Victorino bunted the runners over, Dustin Pedroia grounded to shortstop. Bogaerts, running on contact, scored without a play at the plate.
Uehara started the bottom of the ninth and got two outs on three pitches. To that point, he had allowed one earned run over a stretch of 42 innings dating to July 2.
Uehara started Lobaton with a split-finger fastball that was swung at and missed. He came back with the same pitch, a touch lower, and Lobaton nailed it.
“I hit the ball hard and said, ‘I think I’ve got it,’ ” Lobaton said.
Uehara had not allowed a home run since June 30. He also had thrown 11⅔ shutout innings against the Rays this season, giving up two hits.
“As long as the hitter has a bat in his hand, that happens,” he said.
Said Ortiz: “That was a good pitch. It happens. He’s a pitcher. He’s human. He’s not from another planet.”
Rays manager Joe Maddon admitted to the improbability of it.
“If you bet some bucks on that, you’re going to lose,” he said. “It’s not normally going to happen.”
Lobaton is a career .228 hitter who was playing in his second postseason game. He has nine home runs in 495 at-bats over four seasons and was only in the game because an injury had forced Maddon to use DH Matt Joyce in the outfield. So Lobaton was hitting in the pitcher’s spot.
The Red Sox, while not expecting to lose a game in that fashion, were not surprised the Rays played like they did.
“That was an exciting game, well-played game,” manager John Farrell said. “Our guys have a very strong ability to put this one behind us. We knew coming in this was going to be a hard-fought series.”
The Rays avoided elimination when they won the final game of the regular season in Toronto. Then they survived a wild-card tiebreaker game at Texas and the one-game wild-card playoff game at Cleveland. Monday was their first game at Tropicana Field since Sept. 23 and a rare sellout crowd of 33,675 turned out.
A tense game played out over four hours and 19 minutes featured many machinations in the eighth inning. The end result was Tampa Bay scoring the go-ahead run.
Ortiz led off the top of the inning by drawing a walk off lefthander Jake McGee. The Red Sox went to their specialist, pinch runner Quintin Berry. He stole second on a close play that the Rays heatedly argued.
The Rays intentionally walked pinch hitter Jonny Gomes to get to Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Stephen Drew, two hitters who have struggled against lefties.
Saltalamacchia struck out and Drew popped out. Farrell decided against pinch hitters in both cases.
The Rays cashed in on their chance in the bottom of the inning.
With Franklin Morales pitching, James Loney drew a walk and Sam Fuld ran for him. Desmond Jennings reached on a bunt single when Morales and first baseman Mike Napoli both went for the ball.
Joyce fouled out trying to bunt, Saltalamacchia making a terrific catch near the backstop.
Yunel Escobar grounded a ball up the middle that Drew had a play on. But Pedroia had come over from second base and accidentally interfered with him and the bases were loaded on the single.
Young pinch hit and hit a slow grounder to first base, driving in Fuld.
The Sox came back, only to watch the Rays celebrate.
“That’s part of the game,” Victorino said. “We have all the confidence in the world in Koji and what he’s done all year. We’re still up, 2-1; we’re still in the driver’s seat. We have go out there tomorrow and win another one.”
After he left the clubhouse, Uehara posted a message on Twitter in Japanese.
“I’ve thrown,” he wrote. “I got a walk-off loss. (Tears).”Peter Abraham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @peteabe.