ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — There are countless ways the Red Sox could have lost on Monday night. The Rays are a talented, well-prepared team with plenty of weapons.
Low on the list, somewhere near the bottom, was the idea that backup catcher Jose Lobaton would come off the bench cold and hit a hit walk-off home run off Koji Uehara.
As Lobaton stepped to the plate with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning, Uehara had allowed one earned run over a stretch of 42 innings dating back to July 2.
Uehara had not given up a home run since June 30. He also had thrown 11.2 shutout innings against the Rays this season, giving up two hits.
Uehara started Lobaton with a split-finger fastball that was swung at and missed. He came back with the same pitch, a touch lower, and Lobaton nailed it.
“As long as the hitter has a bat in his hand, that happens,” Uehara said.
Said David Ortiz: “That was a good pitch. … It happens. He’s a pitcher. He’s human. He’s not from another planet.”
Rays manager Joe Maddon admitted to the improbability of it.
“If you bet some bucks on that, you’re going to lose,” he said. “It’s not normally going to happen.”
Lobaton is a career .228 hitter who was playing in his second postseason game. He has nine home runs in 495 at-bats over four seasons. Get this: The ball landed in the rays tank beyond the fence in center field. Lobaton was the first Tampa Bay player to do that.
Small sample size, but still: In six career postseason games, Uehara has pitched four innings and allowed six runs on six hits, four of them home runs.
After he left the clubhouse, Uehara posted a message on Twitter in Japanese.
“I’ve thrown,” he wrote. “I got a walk-off loss. (Tears).”
Game 4 will be Tuesday at 8:37 p.m. back at Tropicana Field. The Red Sox lead the best-of-five series 2-1. Jake Peavy will face Jeremy Hellickson.
“I wish we had won the game. But I’ll be ready to pitch,” Peavy said. “This team will be ready. We’ll bounce back.”
A few notes:
• Via Twitter and email, folks expressed surprise that Farrell didn’t pinch hit for Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Stephen Drew in the eight inning with a runner on second and one outs against lefty Jake McGee.
Both have poor statistics against lefties. But righthanded hitters have hit .217 against McGee this season, lefties .235. Pinch hiting David Ross or Xander Bogaerts was not remotely cut and dry.
“McGee has been dominant against right‑handed hitters. He’s almost a right‑handed reliever in some ways because of the strong reverse splits he has,” Farrell said. “Stephen is a good fastball hitter. We know McGee is going to come at us with 95 percent fastballs, if not more. There was no hesitation to leave Stephen at the plate.”
Beyond that, Farrell has not hit for Drew and Saltalamacchia this season. So to suddenly change that, to show a lack of trust in two players who have helped carry the team all season, would have been wildly out character for Farrell.
It’s easy to manage from the couch or the press box. It’s a lot harder when you have to look a good player in the eye and tell him to sit down.
• Ortiz said it was a “good move” to run Quintin Berry for him in the eighth inning. The Sox ended up with Berry on second with Mike Napoli up. He got ahead 2-and-0 in the count and grounded out on a 3-and-2 pitch after taking two strikes.
• Farrell showed a lot of faith in Franklin Morales, sending him out to start the eighth inning. But Morales walked James Loney and pinch runner Sam Fuld eventually scored the go-ahead run. Have to wonder how Morales gets used next.
• Clay Buchholz (3 earned runs on seven hits and three walks over six innings) had one of his poorest starts of the season. Farrell ran him back out there for the sixth inning after a shaky fifth inning and he got three pop-ups.
• Jacoby Ellsbury is 8 for 14 in the series with seven runs scored, two RBIs and three stolen bases. That’s a nice page in the free-agent portfolio. Ellsbury has been so good this season and now in the postseason. Can the Red Sox afford to let him get away?
Thanks to everybody for reading.