ST. PETERSBURG — So much happened Monday during the Rays’ dramatic 5-4 win against the Red Sox in Game 3 of the American League division series that it took more than a few hours to process.
The 3-0 deficit, Evan Longoria’s three-run home run, the Rays had the lead, closer Fernando Rodney coughed it up, Jose Lobaton ends the game with a 412-foot home run into the touch tank in center field.
Another Rays victory when faced with elimination.
When asked what stood out, manager Joe Maddon went with Longoria’s fifth-inning home run that erased a 3-0 deficit.
“The fact that Longo once again put us right,” he said. “You see it so many times, for him to do it again, that’s pretty incredible. But beyond that, and this is nothing against Lobaton, but their guy (RHP Koji Uehara) is so good I didn’t even have that in my imagination bank. That was not going to happen.”
Maddon said he was looking at his lineup card pondering what to do in the 10th inning. Rodney was going to start the inning, and he was looking at his options if Rodney struggled.
Then ... CRACK.
Maddon said he picked up the flight of the ball as it soared toward center field, the one place at the Trop where home runs become long outs. Only Lobaton’s ball was deflected by a fan wearing a Dan Johnson jersey and into the touch tank.
“You’ve seen Danny’s home runs, you see Longo’s home runs, but that’s an unlikely moment,” Maddon said.
Lobaton became just the third player to help his team avoid elimination with a walk-off home run. The other two were Boston’s Trot Nixon (against the A’s in 2003) and David Ortiz (against the Yankees in 2004). Both homers engineered comebacks as the Red Sox rallied to win both series.
“It was absolutely the most unexpected moment,” Rays owner Stuart Sternberg said. “It just stopped. Everything stopped and ended.”
Except the series. The Rays bought themselves another night.
KJ gets a start
Maddon decided to go with the seldom-used Kelly Johnson at DH ahead of Matt Joyce and Delmon Young for Tuesday’s Game 4 for a number of reasons.
“Obviously Matty’s been struggling a bit, there’s no denying it,” Maddon said. “When it comes down to matching it up, we kind of like what Kelly can do possibly, and we also like the idea of using Delmon as that wild card, putting him in the right spot.”
Joyce was 0-for-7 through the first three games of the series. Johnson tripled in his lone at-bat in Game 1.
Welcome back, Rocco
Former Rays CF Rocco Baldelli, now a special assistant in the club’s baseball operations department, threw out the first pitch before Game 4.
Baldelli also threw out the first pitch before Game 5 of the 2010 ALDS.
“My arm felt a lot better at that point than it does right now,” he said. “I know it’s kind of a disclaimer, but I haven’t played catch in three years. I’m more worried about throwing out this first pitch than I was about anything I ever did on the field, I promise you.”
LHP David Price caught the pitch and Don Zimmer served as the umpire.
RF Wil Myers (0-for-12, four strikeouts) was back in right field after leaving Monday’s game in the eighth inning because of cramps brought on by dehydration.
“Cramping like that can go away if you fill the guy back up,” Maddon said. “I guess he was running on empty (Monday). He was doing a little Jackson Brown.”
Maddon didn’t decide on his catcher until he was driving to the park. He decided on Lobaton, because he works well with Tuesday’s starter, RHP Jeremy Hellickson, and because of what he did Monday.
“The guy’s got to be riding a little bit of a high after (Monday), I would have to believe,” Maddon said. “I’m not saying that was entirely the reason, but you can’t walk away from the fact that offensively he can do some pretty good things.”
Lobaton said he watched the video of his game-winning blast.
“Yeah, like 20 times,” he said. “I swung the bat pretty good and I was like, ‘Well I got to put that in my mind so I can do it (in Game 4). Maybe not a homer, but something good.’ ”
Because Lobaton homered into the touch tank, the Rays will donate $5,000 to a charity of his choice and $5,000 to the Florida Aquarium.
1B James Loney entered Game 4 with a career .373 postseason batting average. ... Monday was the second time in postseason history when a team took the lead in the bottom of the eighth, gave it up in the ninth and won the game in the bottom of the ninth. The first was Game 7 of the 1960 World Series.