And stay alive the Rays did, getting an inspired start by Wade Davis and offensive contributions by Carlos Pena, Evan Longoria and B.J. Upton en route to a 5-2 win over the Rangers in Game 4 of the American League Division Series.
After dropping the first two games in St. Petersburg, the Rays stormed back to take Games 3 and 4 over the weekend in Texas, forcing a Game 5 to be played Tuesday night at Tropicana Field.
On many occasions, Pena has been referred to as "the soul of the Rays," and that spirit is suddenly very much alive, as he chipped in with two hits, two runs scored and an RBI on Sunday.
"I hope people are not surprised -- we hope that they're inspired if anything," Pena said. "We were a team, we were behind, our backs were against the wall. We were in hostile territory and we stuck together and we still have a shot.
"We're regular guys who had a dream and here they are. If anything, I hope people are inspired by what's going on and come out and support us, and hopefully we can continue."
Pena got things going early when he tripled with one out in the second. Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler then gifted the Rays a run when he botched Matt Joyce's popup, which allowed Pena to score.
Tampa Bay doubled its way to three runs in the fourth when Longoria doubled to open the inning and scored on a double by Pena. Two outs later, Upton doubled to left to score Pena and put the Rays up 3-0.
Combined with Pena's previous two at-bats from Saturday's game -- in which he hit a single and a home run -- the veteran hit for the cycle in four at-bats. Longoria, though limping through much of the game with his left quadriceps acting up, added a two-run homer with two outs in the fifth to give the Rays a 5-0 lead.
"I kind of felt like Kirk Gibson going around the bases a little bit," Longoria said.
After getting just eight hits in the first two games, Rays hitters cobbled together 11 in Game 3 and they had 12 Sunday.
"I think when we were leaving Tampa, a lot of the guys were talking about the series in New York where we lost the first two games and bounced back and won the next two in a very big spot," Longoria said. "So I think that was pretty fresh in a lot of guy's minds, and that's really what I kept drawing from, was our ability to bounce back in that situation and our ability to do that here -- and the belief that we can."
Making his postseason debut, Davis achieved his defining moment of the afternoon in the fifth, when the Rangers loaded the bases with two outs, but the rookie right-hander struck out Vladimir Guerrero to end the threat.
"It felt great," said Davis of his success against Guerrero. "He is one of the most dangerous hitters in baseball. If you make a couple of mistakes, it can change the game. At that point in the game -- for me -- it was the game. If he gets a hit or hits a homer, it is a different ballgame."
The Rangers finally got to Davis in the sixth, when Nelson Cruz hit a leadoff home run and Kinsler followed with a single to chase Davis. Grant Balfour allowed an RBI double to Mitch Moreland with two outs that cut the Rays' lead to 5-2.
A combined bullpen effort of Randy Choate, Balfour, Joaquin Benoit and Rafael Soriano pitched the final four innings, allowing just the double to Moreland to take the Rays safely home. Davis got the win and Soriano picked up a save.
Suddenly, the Rangers' bats seemed to have been silenced by the Rays' pitchers.
"I thought [Davis] did a good job of mixing [up his pitches]," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "I thought when he had to make pitches, he did. And that's what it's all about. Good pitching stops hitting, and he pitched good."
Now the ALDS heads back to Tropicana Field tied at two games each with the home team being 0-for-4 in the series and giving home-field advantage a bad name.
"I just think that some teams are better able to play well on the road," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "We demonstrated that this year. I still want to believe there is a home-field advantage, and hopefully that's going to show up Tuesday."
The Rays' work is hardly done, as they must face Cliff Lee for the second time in less than a week. But clearly, the feeling in the clubhouse is that the worm had turned for Tampa Bay.
"I'm very proud of this ballclub, very proud of these guys, very happy to be part of this group," Pena said. "As a group, we've shown a lot of fight, so I'm very proud to be part of it.
"I'm extremely happy to be able to go back to Tampa Bay and finish off this series over there, and we're going to give it all we have for the fans, for the city and for ourselves. Hopefully we can come out on top."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less