Second-guesses aside, what the heck happened Monday night in St. Petersburg, Fla.?
Picking the oddest moment from the Rays’ 5-4 marathon win over the Red Sox is like choosing Popeye’s or KFC with a hangover: an exercise in futility that will inevitably leave you sick to your stomach. Was it Ben Zobrist’s foul ball off the catwalk, forcing Red Sox starter Clay Buchholz to throw another 20 pitches in the fourth inning? Was it Dustin Pedroia’s takedown of shortstop Stephen Drew in the eighth? Was it Mike Napoli’s lost, puppy dog eyes as he watched dribblers at first base?
Pinch-running for David Ortiz in a tie game? Pitching to Evan Longoria with first base open? The fact that Jose Lobaton, who hit the game-winning home run in the ninth, might as well have invoked Dante Hicks during the post-game celebration? He wasn’t even supposed to be there today.
If. If. If.
If Wil Myers hadn’t pulled up lame with cramps, Rays manager Joe Maddon never has to pull his double switch, Lobaton never sees the plate in the ninth inning, and we’re probably not questioning the effectiveness of Koji Uehara. Myers has been at the center of it all in this series.
On the flip side, Sox skipper John Farrell had a game to forget, with questionable moves (Brandon Workman? Really?) that will be debated right up until tonight’s insane 8:37 p.m. first pitch. If the Sox and Jake Peavy see themselves forced to a Game 5 Thursday night back in Boston, the debates will simmer for a little bit longer.
And if the Rays somehow come back from an 0-2 deficit and earn a trip to the ALCS, Farrell’s Game 3 loss will be a hot stove nuisance. It certainly won’t be at the Grady Little level, if only because Farrell made decisions rather than whistling Dixie on the Yankee Stadium bench during the most crucial moment of the postseason. Still, they were dubious moves indeed, none more so than lifting Ortiz for Quintin Berry in the eighth inning.
When Berry’s spot came up in the order in the ninth inning, Farrell pinch hit for him with Mike Carp. Carp struck out with the lead run at third in Jacoby Ellsbury. It’s salivating to wonder what heroics Ortiz might have been able to produce in the same situation.
“Didn’t want to miss an opportunity,” Farrell said about running for Ortiz. “I don’t second-guess that pinch-run move there.”
Well, there’s one person who doesn’t.
Jake Peavy is 2-0 in three career starts at Tropicana Field, where he gets the ball Tuesday night for Game 4. Meanwhile, the Rays are putting their faith in Jeremy Hellickson, who is 4-2 with a 4.21 ERA against Boston in his career. The Sox should win tonight for a trip to the ALCS. They should have beaten the Rays on Monday and spent Tuesday huddling around the TV at 5:05 to see if Oakland or Detroit would be joining them.
The Dodgers stamped their passport to the NLCS Monday night, which means an Armageddon World Series is still at play. The Red Sox can make their path a little easier with a Game 4 win.
Maybe they’ll even swim in the fish tank too.