Tampa Bay Rays Improve, but Will Need More to Win Game 4

By Peter M. Gordon

The Rays played better tonight, and came away with another win in a must-win game.  They only made one error, and that was due to a hard slide into Ben Zobrist that caused his throw to go off line. They came back from a three run deficit and got a walk-off homer from Jose Lobaton. No question they played better tonight than they did in the first two games in Boston.

The Rays also took advantage of some Boston breakdowns, including back-to-back mental mistakes in the 8th inning. On Desmond Jennings‘ bunt down the third baseline, both pitcher Franklin Morales and first baseman Mike Napoli charged the ball, leaving no one to cover first base and allowing Jennings to reach. Later in the inning, Dustin Pedroia and Stephen Drew both went for Yunel Escobar‘s soft grounder up the middle, allowing everyone to reach once again. Playoff pressure had caused some mental mistakes on the Rays part, with Wil Myers‘ missed flyball in Game 1 being the prime example. In this game, the Red Sox proved that they too are susceptible to making mistakes in the crunch.

The Rays survived again, but need to play much better to win the next game. Jeremy Hellickson needs to pitch like he did last year and not like he’s pitched in the second half of the season. The Rays need to make all the plays they’re supposed to make in the field. The Rays need to start hitting better with runners in scoring position, Evan Longoria‘s three run homer notwithstanding. If Wil Myers can return to the lineup, he needs to hit like the Rookie of the Year and not the lost player he has been the last five games.  The Red Sox are a good team. They took the season series from the Rays. In order to win the next two games to advance, the Rays need to play like they did in July, or the one that swept the Yankees in the Stadium in September.

Can the Rays do it? Of course they can. The best news about their Game 3 win is that the Rays won without playing their best. They played better, but they still have something more left in reserve. They will need everyone on top of their game to force the series to a decisive Game 5.