Wednesday, December 13, 2017
Tampa Bay Rays

Close calls go against Rays

The Red Sox appeared to catch a couple of breaks when two controversial calls went their way. In the fifth, Red Sox CF Jacoby Ellsbury was on second with one out when RF Shane Victorino hit a chopper deep in the hole at shortstop. SS Yunel Escobar corralled the ball and made a running throw to 3B Evan Longoria, who appeared to tag Ellsbury before he reached third. Ellsbury was called safe, and scored on a wild pitch. Then, in the eighth, OF Quintin Berry — pinch-running for DH David Ortiz — stole second base with no outs. But replays showed 2B Ben Zobrist blocked Berry's outstretched left arm, and tagged him before Berry's right-hand could touch the base. Zobrist and manager Joe Maddon argued, to no avail. LHP Jake McGee got out of the jam unscathed.

Victorino's takeout

For the second straight game, Red Sox RF Shane Victorino took out Rays 2B Ben Zobrist on a hard slide to thwart a double play. And on Monday, Victorino's aggressiveness also led to Boston's first run. Jacoby Ellsbury started the first inning with a single, and Victorino was hit by an Alex Cobb pitch. That's when Dustin Pedroia hit a potential double-play grounder to third, but Victorino flipped Zobrist, forcing his throw to go wild to first, and allowing Ellsbury to score. It was the second throwing error in as many games for Zobrist, who had four errors all season at second base.

The catwalk strikes again

The Rays caught a break in the fourth inning. Leading off, Ben Zobrist hit a 2-and-2 pitch high above home plate. The ball hit off the "B" ring in the Tropicana Field catwalk, and was caught by C Jarrod Saltalamacchia. But according to the Trop ground rules, any ball that hits the "B'' ring in foul territory is a dead ball. Two pitches later, Zobrist walked and eventually reached third before Matt Joyce struck out with the bases loaded to end the inning. It did, however, extend an inning where RH Clay Buchholz threw 34 pitches.

Good luck charm

RHP Jake Peavy explained Monday how the "Cigar Store Indian" statue has been a clubhouse centerpiece for the Red Sox, both home and road. Peavy said the team was going through a rough stretch and was a little road weary, when he spotted the statue in the window of a cigar/liquor store in San Francisco. Peavy, who is American Indian by heritage, negotiated a price and brought the statue into the clubhouse training room, telling teammates it had a "healing spirit." Peavy said the statue's wardrobe has grown, including a couple of jerseys, a beard, with celebratory cigars in his hand for if they go all the way. Says Peavy: "He's going to ride on my Duck Boat if we win the World Series."

Extra Bases:

. Former Devil Rays C Toby Hall attended the game on Monday with his 10-year-old son Tayden. Hall played with Tampa Bay from 2000-06, the Dodgers (2006) and White Sox (2007-08). Hall, who resides in Lutz, played in Tampa Bay with current Red Sox OF Jonny Gomes.

. Here's a hint for anyone looking for a pregame autograph: get the player's name right. Red Sox backup C David Ross was standing near the batting cage when two young Rays fans started shouting "Cody.'' Ross responded by saying "That's not my name.'' Cody Ross played for the Red Sox last season.

. Though Monday's game was a sellout, attendance was 33,675 (not capacity of 34,078) due to seating that had to be supplied for MLB, plus auxillary media seats.

. Former Ray Rocco Baldelli will throw out the ceremonial first pitch in tonight's game.

. Though St. Petersburg will rarely beat Boston in terms of celebrity sightings — John Travolta was at Fenway Park over the weekend — former WWE and WCW wrestling star "Nature Boy" Ric Flair was at Tropicana Field on Monday.

Thunderdome? Tampa? Really, TBS, nerds would know better

LHP David Price admitted it was wrong to call a couple TBS baseball analysts "nerds" in a postgame tweet Saturday. Turns out, the station might need to do a little more research with its geography and history. TBS ended its Rays-Red Sox pregame show with a graphic previewing the game, in "Tampa, FL." And when it went live to Tropicana Field, there was this from TBS play-by-play announcer Brian Anderson: "Appropriately named Thunderdome." The Thunderdome was the name of the arena starting in 1993. It was renamed Tropicana Field on Oct. 4, 1996, before the Rays' first game in 1998. And this is not the Brian Anderson who is the color man on Rays broadcasts; this one has been the Brewers' TV play-by-play guy since 2007. At least they didn't call them Devil Rays to complete the clueless trifecta.

First for Julianna Zobrist

Julianna Zobrist, a Christian pop singer, has plenty of experience performing in front of big crowds, and has sung the national anthem at Rays games. But Zobrist, wife of Rays 2B Ben Zobrist, said she was nervous before delivering an outstanding rendition in her first playoff appearance in Monday's Game 3 of the ALDS. She said the anthem is the hardest — but also favorite — song she's performed, and this time it was capped off perfectly by a congratulatory hug from Ben. "It was so awesome," Julianna said. "The anthem in of itself is powerful enough, then to have my husband out there and be able to sing and hear all these voices. It's phenomenal." Later, Julianna sang God Bless America, which was carried live on TBS.

Twitter Talk

Maybe if the Rays played in an amusement park rather than this joke they'd do better than be last in the majors in attendance.

Peter Gammons (@pgammo)

Flashing the glove

RHP Alex Cobb's outing Monday was shorter than he hoped, just five innings and 94 pitches. But Cobb, in his second postseason start, kept the Rays in the game, wiggling out of jams, and making a couple dazzling, inning-ending plays. Cobb allowed three runs on five hits, walking three, hitting a batter, and letting a run score due to a wild pitch. He helped himself with his defense. To end the first, Cobb dove left to snag a Daniel Nava grounder, throwing him out. In the second, Cobb darted off the mound, bare-handed a Will Middlebrooks slow roller and made an off-balance throw to get him out.

A little help

Sometimes it's better to be lucky than good. The Rays got a little lucky in scoring their fourth run in the eighth inning. After a perfect bunt by Desmond Jennings put runners on first and second, Matt Joyce popped up a bunt to the catcher. Then Yunel Escobar hit a potential double play grounder up the middle.

Shortstop Stephen Drew fielded the ball, but second baseman Dustin Pedroia also went for it. They collided, and with nobody covering second, Jennings was safe to load the bases. The Rays pushed a run across on the next pitch when Delmon Young hit a fielder's choice grounder to first to score Sam Fuld (above) and make it 4-3.

"The base hit by Escobar up the middle, that was just well placed,'' Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "It's not a hard hit ball and both guys have a chance at it and they get tangled up a little bit. It goes for a base hit rather than recording the out. We minimized the damage to one run and gave ourselves a chance to tie it, which we did.''

Suddenly, a not-so-sure closer

Koji Uehara was as close to a sure thing as there can be this season. The Red Sox closer ended the season without giving up a home run in 37 appearances, a stretch of 40.1 innings. He led all relievers in baseball with 44 perfect appearances and had a 1.09 ERA in 74.1 innings.

And in his first playoff appearance in Game 2 against the Rays, Uehara had a perfect ninth inning to preserve the Red Sox 7-4 lead. Then came the ninth inning on Monday night.

Uehara blew through two of the toughest Rays hitters, Ben Zobrist and Evan Longoria. But pinch-hitter Jose Lobaton launched a splitter over the centerfield fence to end the game and all of Uehara's streaks.

"It comes with the territory,'' Uehara said through an interpreter. "Still, I have to perform. I have to get that third out.''

Uehara said he thought he threw a good pitch. But when the ball left Lobaton's bat he had a sinking feeling.

"It's a hard thing to swallow,'' he said. "I wanted to give my team another opportunity to get back on the field. But now it's something that is in past. I'm not going to think about it.

"As long as a player has a bat in his hand, something like that can happen.''

Uehara's work throughout the season earned the faith of his teammates. Red Sox rightfielder Shane Victorino hopes coaches won't hesitate to put Uehara in again if the same situation arises.

"That's just part of the game,'' he said. "I would hand the ball to Koji tomorrow. I have all the confidence in him. It's just something that happened.''

Did you know?

. Jose Lobaton is the first to hit a postseason walkoff home run for the Rays. It's the Rays' second postseason walkoff win in franchise history. B.J. Upton hit a walkoff sac fly against the Red Sox in the 2008 ALCS.

. Lobaton's walkoff home run is the first against the Red Sox in a postseason game since the Yankees' Aaron Boone in the 2003 ALCS Game 7.

     
   
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