ARLINGTON, Texas – Rangers Ballpark was buzzing in anticipation of a long-awaited celebration and the Tampa Bay Rays had been dreadful at the plate.
Five outs from elimination, the Rays changed everything – and get to play another day.
“The fight showed up again, and that’s a good sign,” Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon said.
John Jaso lined a tiebreaking RBI single in the eighth inning after Carlos Pena had already delivered a rare clutch playoff hit for the Rays, who avoided elimination in the A.L. division series with a 6-3 victory Saturday over the Texas Rangers.
Limited to a total of one run and eight hits while losing the first two games at home, Tampa Bay broke loose in the late innings.
The Rays, the A.L.’s best team in the regular season, forced Game 4 today. A win would keep them alive for a deciding game in the best-of-5 series Tuesday at Tropicana Field, where Texas had two impressive victories to start the series.
Ian Kinsler’s leadoff homer in the seventh put Texas up and appeared to set the stage for a series-clinching victory 50 seasons in the making. With the record crowd of 51,746 still hyped, Dan Johnson doubled off the wall with one out in the Rays eighth. Pena followed with an RBI single that made it 2-all.
“The whole attitude in the dugout, the spirit, everything, just came to life,” Maddon said. “More like us.”
Then the Rangers’ All-Star closer Neftali Feliz walked Jason Bartlett, the No. 9 hitter, before Jaso’s liner to center gave the Rays their first lead in the series.
The Rays are trying to do what’s only been done once before.
Of the 16 teams before this year to lose the first two games of a division series at home, only the 2001 New York Yankees have swept the next three games to advance. They did it against Oakland.