ST. PETERSBURG -- Wasn't this supposed to be the American League Division Series? Not with Joe Maddon at the helm.
"It's total National League, the interesting part of that game," Maddon said after the Rays' 5-4, walk-off win at Tropicana Field in Game 3 against the Red Sox.
The "interesting" segment of Tampa Bay's victory began in the eighth inning, when Wil Myers was forced to exit the game because of cramping in both of his legs. Maddon had a few choices.
He could have subbed in Sam Fuld straight up for Myers. Fuld's a great defender anywhere in the outfield, and it would have been the path of least resistance. But Maddon didn't like the idea of getting the Rays locked into one player in that spot in the lineup, taking away his ability to pinch-hit later on. So he did something that has only been done six times in postseason history: He chose to burn his DH.
So Matt Joyce, batting seventh, went from DH to right field. The cleanup hitter, at that point, was left-handed reliever Jake McGee.
"What happened was we went National League," Maddon said. "Whenever your DH can play defense, that really permits you to do other things. Sometimes DH's can't play defense. And when they can't play defense, you can't make that particular move. But when you can, it kind of pushes back the next decision regarding who is going to hit where."
McGee got through the top of the eighth, preserving a 3-3 tie. James Loney then drew a leadoff walk, and Maddon got even more aggressive, sending in Fuld to pinch-run. Up came Desmond Jennings, whose bunt fell for a hit as it rolled into what Red Sox manager John Farrell called the "perfect spot in that triangle."
Two speedy runners on, nobody out and a tie game. The Rays had the Red Sox right where they wanted them -- and then Joyce, facing Franklin Morales, fouled a bunt back to catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Maddon could have had Joyce swing away, but he's historically a poor hitter against lefties. He could have used Delmon Young or Kelly Johnson to pinch-hit, too.
Instead, Joyce fouled out, and Yunel Escobar reached on an infield single to load the bases. That's when Maddon called upon Young, who delivered the ground ball Boston was hoping for. But it wound up working in Tampa Bay's favor, as first baseman Mike Napoli couldn't make a throw home and settled on recording the second out at first base.
"Young hits the first-pitch curveball and pushes it the other way, and I don't think Nap got a clean grip on the ball to force a throw to home plate," Farrell said. "Took the out."
And the Rays took the run. Fernando Rodney would go on to give it right back in the top of the ninth, once again tying the game. But there's another aspect of Maddon's eighth-inning maneuvering that turned out to help the Rays.
When Rodney came in the game, he assumed the ninth spot in the order previously occupied by Young and, before that, catcher Jose Molina. And who took the pitcher's spot in the lineup?
That'd be Jose Lobaton, who was due up third in the bottom of the ninth. All he did in that spot was launch a walk-off homer to center field. And the team playing NL ball forced Tuesday's Game 4 of the ALDS (live on TBS at 8:30 p.m. ET).
"That was purely all National League right there," Maddon said. "That's all that was."