ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — With his team’s season slipping away, Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon was trying to figure out what desperate measures were still left.
He had already exhausted every ounce of his baseball intelligence, every shred of luck and nearly every pitcher in his bullpen.
If it came down to it, he figured, he would use David Price if he had to, even though he was planning on saving him for game five.
“I don’t even have any idea who would have started that,” Maddon said. “It didn’t really matter because without winning a Game 4, there is no Game 5.”
After teetering on the brink of elimination for nearly two weeks, the Rays finally fell. They took their final gasps in a 3-1 Game 4 American League Championship series loss to the Red Sox.
When starter Jeremy Hellickson unraveled after facing just six batters, the Rays were left scrambling.
Maddon admitted that with Hellickson’s struggles, he never intended for him to go very deep into the game.
“Originally, I thought or had hoped for Helly getting through the lineup maybe one time, maybe through Pedroia and then turning it over at that point,” Maddon said. “But the way it was going in the beginning there, you could see it was not going to work. We had to do something a little bit differently. Then we became a little bit more extemporaneous at that point.”
He didn’t tell Hellickson, though.
“I didn’t want to put anything in his head,” Maddon said. “I just wanted him to go out there and play.”
It didn’t matter.
By the end of the night, the Rays would burn through nine pitchers, a postseason record for a nine-inning game.
The crazy part is that, when they took a slim one-run lead in the sixth on David DeJesus’s RBI single, it seemed like all the on-the-fly, survival-mode decisions would work.
“It was there,” Maddon said. “It was all there. I really thought we could do 1-0. I really thought it was in our abilities.”
But they had been here with the Sox time and again this season. Eleven of their 19 regular season meetings were decided by two runs or less. The Sox won seven of them.
Tonight was the same record on repeat.
“They were really good, they didn’t make any mistakes,” Maddon said. “You could see their grit. From spring training on, I think they’ve really promoted the character of their ground and they’re just gamers. They’ve got a bunch of gamers over there.”
• The Rays scored just 12 runs in the series, and went 5 for 28 with runners in scoring position. Scoring runs against the Sox seemed like an impossibility all season for the Rays, who hit .152 with runners in scoring position against the Sox during the regular season.
“You can look at it all season long,” Maddon said. “They’ev beat us and primarily because we’ve lost a lot of close games where they’ve won, we can’t match up with their pitching.
“They’ve done a great job. They’ve got some really good veterans. Peavy That’s been the downfall all year, the fact that we can’t hit that group.”
• Hellickson’s start, just one inning and six batters, was the shortest in Rays postseason history.
In playoff history, teams are 15-55 when their starter goes an inning or less.
• The only bats that seemed to work consistently for the Rays were Yunel Escobar and James Loney’s.
Escobar hit .467 (7 for 15) with two doubles three runs scored and an RBI. Loney, who went 0 for 4 on Tuesday, went five for 12 with a pair for doubles and a pair of ribbies.