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Rays use Trop's quirks to stave off elimination

Rays use Trop's quirks to stave off elimination

Rays use Trop's quirks to stave off elimination

ST. PETERSBURG -- Rays manager Joe Maddon said several times that Tampa Bay's lack of familiarity with Boston's home ballpark led to it being "out-Fenwayed" in the first two games of the American League Division Series.

With a little help from their own quirky field and its loud, sold-out crowd, the Rays got even Monday as things went back to normal at Tropicana Field -- or at least the kind of normal to which the Rays have grown accustomed -- in a 5-4 victory over the Red Sox in Game 3 of the ALDS thanks to Jose Lobaton's dramtic walk-off homer against Koji Uehara.

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"Everybody's a different team outside of Fenway, and everybody's a different team outside of Tropicana Field," starter Alex Cobb said. "We have our quirks, definitely."

On Monday, the Rays came out on top in the postseason at home for the first time since Game 2 of the 2008 World Series, when they beat the Phillies, 4-2. Entering Game 3, Tampa Bay had dropped four straight home playoff games.

Then again, the Rays have been a different team this year at home. Tampa Bay went 51-30 here during the regular season, and 13 of those wins were of the walk-off variety.

The Rays also tend to be at their best when Tropicana Field is packed, when the sound of cowbells and screaming fans bounce off the concrete walls and the Teflon dome. Tampa Bay's attendance issues have been well-documented -- the club finished last in the Majors this season -- but there was a sold-out crowd of 33,675 in attendance for Monday night's win-or-go-home affair.

"The home fans were awesome," Rays third baseman Evan Longoria said. "And I think we'll try to just continue that and use that to our advantage."

And whether the crowd affected the game or not, the Rays are now 55-24 playing in front of home crowds of 30,000 or more.

Longoria said Sunday that he always expects the home team to win every game, and that's held true so far this series.

"They have a great team. They never quit. We've seen that. Everyone knows that," Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia said. "We've just got to be one run better than them [Tuesday in Game 4]. We'll be all right. We'll be fine."

With how prominently the Green Monster seemed to play into the Rays' struggles in Games 1 and 2, it only seemed fitting that one of the Trop's notorious catwalks would make an appearance at some point, too.

Leading off the fourth inning against Red Sox right-hander Clay Buchholz with the Rays down, 1-0, Ben Zobrist fouled a pitch behind the plate, a ball that eventually landed in the glove of catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, but not before it bounced off the B-ring catwalk about 170 feet above home plate.

"Whatever it hit up there, and it turned into 20 more pitches," Buchholz said afterward. "Sometimes, teams have to make their own breaks, and that was the break for me."

Under the ground rules of the Trop, Zobrist's foul was correctly ruled a dead ball, so the at-bat continued, and Zobrist went on to draw a walk. After Buchholz struck out Longoria and Wil Myers, James Loney and Desmond Jennings extended the inning with a pair of singles. The Rays couldn't capitalize with the bases loaded -- a season-long trend for them, especially against the Red Sox -- but they did force Buchholz to throw 34 pitches in the fourth.

"That's the way the game is. You've got to find a way to get through it," Buchholz said. "I felt like I made some pretty good pitches throughout that whole inning. A couple of 'em didn't go my way, but they've got a good club over there."

Adam Berry is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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