ST. PETERSBURG — Facing baseball's highest-scoring team for the final four innings Monday night, Tampa Bay's deep and resolute bullpen kept the Rays operating in survival mode for at least one more day.
Once Evan Longoria's three-run homer tied the score 3-3 in the fifth, Alex Torres, Joel Peralta and Jake McGee shut down the Red Sox before yielding to closer Fernando Rodney in the ninth.
Although Boston scratched out a run to forge a 4-4 deadlock, Jose Lobaton sent Rodney off as a winner with an improbable two-out home run off Koji Uehara, who allowed one earned run in his final 37 appearances of the regular season.
“Awesome, that's the only word I can think of for our bullpen tonight,” Rays catcher Jose Molina said. “It wasn't easy because Boston has a real good lineup, but nobody said winning the pennant is going to be easy.”
Torres allowed one hit in the sixth, striking out two, before Peralta pitched a perfect seventh inning.
In the eighth, David Ortiz drew a leadoff walk against McGee and pinch-runner Quintin Berry promptly stole second on a close play. After a groundout and an intentional walk, McGee struck out Jarrod Saltalamacchia and retired Stephen Drew on a foul pop.
“Once we rallied to tie it 3-3, nobody in the bullpen wanted to be the guy who let the team down and ended our season,” McGee said. “The Red Sox are tough, that's for sure. They grind, they foul off pitches. They make you work, but we got the job done tonight.”
Rodney, whose eight blown saves during the regular season tied for the second-most in the majors behind Baltimore's Jim Johnson (nine), struggled with his command while trying to protect a 4-3 lead in the ninth.
Only eight of his 19 pitches were strikes and Rodney walked leadoff batter Will Middlebrooks. Pinch-runner Xander Bogaerts eventually came around to score, but Lobaton's blast, which ended up deflecting off a fan's glove into the Rays touch tank, eased Rodney's mind.
“We got the win, and that's all that counts,” said Rodney, who converted 48 of 50 save opportunities in 2012, his first season with the Rays. “It seems like every time we face elimination, we play relaxed. I didn't want to walk that first batter, that's for sure.”
With one out and runners on second and third, manager Joe Maddon allowed Rodney to pitch to Dustin Pedroia rather than issue an intentional walk and deal with pinch-hitter Mike Carp.
Tampa Bay's infield played back and Pedroia's bouncer to short brought Bogaerts across before Carp struck out looking on a 98 mph fastball.
Cobb yielded five hits and three runs in five innings, declaring himself satisfied with an outing that helped the Rays keep hope alive.
“I'd like for us not to put so much stress on ourselves, but believe me, nobody in this room wants to go home,” Cobb said. “I thought I pitched well for the most part. I got in a couple of jams, but I'm thrilled with the outcome. Now, we're going to be a tough team to beat. There's nothing better than a walk-off homer and I think the momentum of this series shifted a bit tonight.”