BOSTON — Ben Zobrist made his way Saturday night through the crowd of reporters and cameramen who formed a tight semicircle in the hallway outside the visitor’s clubhouse. He turned to answer questions, and as he did, he stood with his back in front of a brick wall.
And that is where his team is right now — their backs against the wall.
The Tampa Bay Rays lost for the second time in this best-of-five American League division series, falling 7-4 Saturday to the Boston Red Sox in front of a packed house at Fenway Park.
The series continues Monday at Tropicana Field. The Rays now have to win three straight to avoid elimination.
The Rays are the 23rd American League team to lose the first two games of a division series. Only four of the first 22 came back to win the series.
“We definitely haven’t made things easy on ourselves, and we’re not in a good position right now,” Zobrist said. “We got our backs against the wall. We’ve done all right this past week with that situation, so we got to try and do it again on Monday and Tuesday.”
The Rays reached the ALDS by winning three consecutive lose-or-go-home games on the road. They beat Toronto to set up the one-game tiebreaker at Texas and beat the Rangers to advance to the wild-card game at Cleveland.
They are counting on their recent success in elimination games to serve them well when the series picks up at the Trop.
“It’s going to be difficult, no question it’s going to be difficult,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said. “But I don’t think it’s impossible by any means.”
Alex Cobb, who beat the Indians in the wild-card game, is the Game 3 starter.
The Rays used a familiar formula to beat the Rangers and Indians — pitching.
That formula didn’t worked so well in Boston, where both starting pitchers — Matt Moore in Game 1 and David Price in Game 2 — allowed seven earned runs.
At one point during the two games the Rays were outscored 17-1.
The Rays committed two errors Saturday — throwing errors by Evan Longoria and Zobrist — and each led to a run.
Unlike Friday when the Rays had no real answers for Red Sox starter Jon Lester, they did manage to put runners on base against John Lackey.
They also hit into three double plays, two of which ended innings.
They had the tying run at the plate in the sixth, seventh and eighth inning and couldn’t come up with the big hit.
“He made pitches when he needed to,” Longoria said. “We had him on the ropes a couple of times, but he made pitches to get out of the jam.”
Lackey allowed seven hits and walked three in 51/3 innings, but three Red Sox relievers combined to allow just one hit.
“We had our opportunities, we did,” Zobrist said. “We didn’t make good on them.”
David Ortiz hit a pair of home runs to pace a nine-hit attack against Price, who lost for only the second time in 11 starts at Fenway Park.
“I had some tough breaks, they hit some balls hard,” Price said.
This is the second time the Rays trailed 2-0 in a division series. They lost the first two games of the 2010 ALDS against the Rangers at home before forcing the decisive Game 5 by winning two games in Texas. They lost Game 5 at the Trop.
“We’ve been in this boat in the past and we forced a Game 5,” Maddon said. “So, Boston this time of year is kind of lovely, and I’m looking forward to coming back in a few days.”
So is Price and company.
“We’re not down,” he said. “We know we have 25 guys in our locker room that are ready to go and not worry about anything else. We’re going to try and bring it back to Boston.”
The Rays will try to accomplish this week what they accomplished last week, win three must-win games. Only this time, they won’t play each game in a different city.
“We’ve been in this position before, so we’re just going to have to do the best we can when we go back home to get one win at a time,” Zobrist said.
Monday is Game 3. To Price and his teammates, it is Game 7.
“We’ve been playing Game 7’s before we came (to Boston),” Price said. “Our last game in Toronto was Game 7, our game in Texas was a Game 7, so this is nothing that we’re not used to.”