ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- For all the chess moves, the small ball, and the walkoff dramatics in the Rays' Game 3 win, it was impossible to ignore the atmosphere at Tropicana Field.
The Rays hadn’t played a home game in two weeks. They hadn’t played a postseason home game since 2011 and they hadn’t won one since 2008.
Even though tickets were still available for Game 4 -- which was still no guarantee at that point -- Game 3 was a sellout, and even though there were occasional uprisings from Red Sox fans (even on the other end of the East Coast, Wil Myers cannot escape the jeers), the Rays were able to feed off a loud home crowd.
“Every time it has filled up, it seems to bring out the best in us,” said manager Joe Maddon.
Maddon acknowledged that there are times when the ballpark doesn’t necessarily feel like home to the Rays.
“Just being honest, over the years you've seen a lot of other teams' fans in the ballpark under those circumstances,” he said.
“It definitely had that pro-Rays vibe to it last night. We felt it in the dugout through the entire game. It was spectacular. We'd like to see it look like that more consistently, obviously, because it does matter.”
The Rays drew a crowd of more than 30,000 for the 13th time in the franchise’s postseason history. In those games, the Rays are 6-7. But when they’ve drawn that many fans in the regular season, they’re 49-17.
“It makes a difference,” Maddon said. “But the group was great last night. We're hoping to see a lot of the same tonight.”
A few more notes:
• If the Rays manage to send the series back to Boston, David Price will take the mound in Game 5.
Considering the tizzy he managed to work up on Twitter after his last start, he'll obviously have some things to prove.
Even with Price coming off the worst postseason start of his career, Maddon said, "We just think it's the best thing for us."
• After going with Matt Joyce as the DH in Game 3 over Delmon Young, who seemed to settle into the role at the end of the regular season, Maddon gave the nod to Kelly Johnson in Game 4, batting him seventh in the lineup.
Even though the difference between Young's and Johnson’s career splits against Red Sox starter Jake Peavy was negligible (Young 3 for 13, Johnson 2 for 12), Maddon felt more comfortable going with the lefty.
“We're not afraid to do things,” Maddon said. “It was just back and forth. It's not easy. Our lineups are not easy to assemble. We don't have the cookie-cutter/nine guys/let's go lineup. We set it up to be platooned and that's how we work it in the offseason. When it comes to this time of the season, it's no different. We still continue working the process right down to the last drop.
“Matt has struggled a bit. We tried it yesterday, and listen, I love this guy and he works so hard, and he's not at the top of his game right at this moment.
"Obviously, the other alternative would have been to put Delmon in there. But really, truthfully, Delmon against Peavy is not necessarily what you're looking for. Kelly actually reads better, we think, against Peavy for the beginning of the game."
• A day after starting Game 3 as the cleanup hitter and then leaving with cramping in both legs, Myers was back in the lineup, hitting in the 2-hole. Batting him cleanup was a sign that Maddon still had confidence in the rookie outfielder, whose misplay on a fly ball was the swing moment in Game 1. But Myers is hitless in 12 at-bats, with four strikeouts