ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — Boston closer Koji Uehara had been virtually untouchable the past three months.
Jose Lobaton changed that with one swing.
Lobaton hit a solo home run with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning off Uehara into the giant fish tank beyond the center-field wall, and the Tampa Bay Rays staved off elimination once again by beating the Red Sox 5-4 on Monday night.
"You don't expect it ... I think that's what makes it a little tougher," Red Sox right fielder Shane Victorino said. "It happens. I'll hand the ball to Koji tomorrow if we need to. I have all the confidence in him."
Evan Longoria had a three-run homer and the Rays prevented a playoff sweep, cutting Boston's lead to 2-1 in the best-of-five series. Game 4 is Tuesday night at Tropicana Field, with Jake Peavy starting for the Red Sox against Jeremy Hellickson.
"Our guys have a very strong ability to put this one behind us," Boston manager John Farrell said. "We knew coming in this was going to be a hard-fought series."
Uehara did not give up a home run in his final 37 regular-season appearances, dating to June 30 when Toronto slugger Jose Bautista took him deep. The right-hander allowed just one earned run during the stretch that totaled 40 1-3 innings. He worked a perfect inning in Game 2.
"It was a hard one to swallow since the team had just come back," Uehara said through a translator. "It's something that's in the past already. So, I'm not going to think about it."
Tampa Bay took a win-or-go-home game for the fourth time in nine days. The Rays did it with an unlikely stroke from Lobaton, who came off the bench to catch in the top of the ninth.