With both teams presented with the opportunity to go up a game on their opposition, the Red Sox and Rays partook in an instant October classic at Fenway Park in Game 3 of the American League Division Series on Sunday that spanned more than five hours.
In the process of making some more postseason history, Boston held on for a 6-4 walk-off victory in 13 innings over Tampa Bay on Sunday night. They now lead this best-of-five ALDS two-games-to-one.
Nathan Eovaldi, making his second October start for the Sox after dazzling in last Tuesday’s Wild Card Game, put together yet another strong outing to add to his impressive postseason resume.
Over five solid innings of work, the veteran right-hander allowed just two runs — both of which were earned — on three hits and one walk to go along with eight strikeouts on the night.
Both runs Eovaldi surrendered to his former team came in the top half of the first, as he yielded a one-out single to Wander Franco before serving up a two-run home run to Austin Meadows on a first-pitch fastball.
While Eovaldi’s miscue put his side in an immediate 2-0 hole, a revamped Red Sox lineup was able to back their starter up.
Matched up against Rays right-hander Drew Rasmussen to begin things on Sunday, Kyle Schwarber instantly cut that two-run deficit in half. The left-handed hitter greeted Rasmussen in the bottom of the first by crushing a leadoff home run 390 feet over the Green Monster.
Schwarber’s second homer of the postseason made it a 2-1 game in favor of Tampa Bay, though the Boston bats struck once more two innings later.
On the heels of back-to-back singles from Christian Arroyo and Kyle Schwarber to lead off the latter half of the third, Enrique Hernandez stayed hot by lifting a game-tying, RBI single that brought in Arroyo.
Following a pitching change that saw left-hander Josh Fleming take over for Rasmussen, Rafael Devers broke the tie by plating Hernandez on a run-scoring single that left his bat at 104.9 mph and gave the Red Sox their first lead of the night at 3-2.
Eovaldi, meanwhile, was in the midst of a dominat stretch at the time Devers made it a 3-2 contest. After giving up the homer to Meadows, the righty settled in by retiring 14 of the next 17 batters he faced. His day came to an end as soon as he recorded the final out of the fifth, at which point he had thrown 85 pitches.
Of those 85 pitches (58 strikes) thrown by the 31-year-old hurler, 33 were four-seam fastballs, 23 were splitters, 19 were curveballs, six were sliders, and four were cutters. He topped out at 99.3 mph and averaged 96.9 mph with his heater.
After Hernandez tacked on additional run to his side’s lead and made it a 4-2 game by clubbing a 424-foot solo blast over the Monster off newly-inserted reliever Pete Fairbanks to lead off the bottom of the fifth, Josh Taylor got the first call out of the Red Sox bullpen from manager Alex Cora to begin the sixth inning.
Taylor issued a single to Nelson Cruz in between getting the first two outs of the frame before making way for Ryan Brasier, who retired the dangerous Randy Arozarena to end the inning while also getting the first two outs of the seventh.
Austin Davis was then dispatched and ran into some trouble before getting through the seventh unscathed when he got Brandon Lowe to fly out to center field.
Heading into the eighth inning with a 4-2 advantage still in tact, Hansel Robles was next up out of the Boston bullpen. Robles, who last yielded a run in late August, was quite simply unable to hold the Rays down for long.
Wander Franco led the top of the eighth off by taking Robles 364 feet deep into the Monster seats to trim the Sox’ lead down to one run at 4-3. A double from Meadows and groundout from Cruz put the potential tying run at third base in the form of pinch-running Manuel Margot.
Robles did manage to keep Margot at third momentarily by punching out Yandy Diaz on a foul tip for the second out of the inning, but Arozarena — as he has had the tendency to do — did not let Robles escape easily.
On an 0-1, 92 mph slider on the outer half of the plate, Arozarena added on to his October legend by lacing a line-drive double to left-center field past an outstretched Hernandez that allowed Margot to easily score from third to knot things up at four runs apiece.
Robles, who was charged with the blown save, was immediately removed from the game due to a stomach illness — as he left the field with head trainer Brad Pearson — and was subsequently replaced by Garrett Whitlock.
Whitlock, in turn, stranded the runner he inherited by intentionally walking Kevin Kiermaier before striking out Mike Zunino to retire the side. The right-handed rookie also sat down all three batters he faced in the top of the ninth to hold the Rays at four runs.
The Red Sox, however, could not take advantage of this in their half of the ninth, meaning this contest headed into extra innings with a score of 4-4.
Nick Pivetta, in his first relief appearance since Game 1 of this series, gave up a single to the speedy Margot to lead off the top of the 10th. After he got both Cruz to Cruz to fly out, though, Christian Vazquez threw out Margot as he attempted to steal second base while Arozarena was at the plate.
Arroyo was able to keep his tag on Margot’s leg as he slid over the bag, resulting in a confirmed third out upon a brief replay review.
In the bottom of the 10th, with former Yankees closer David Robertson on the mound for Tampa Bay, Verdugo reached base via a one-out single to left field.
J.D. Martinez followed by barreling a 375-foot fly ball to deep center field, but it was one that was caught on the warning track by an awaiting Kiermaier. Hunter Renfroe then popped out to first base for the final out.
Pivetta, called upon again for the 11th, got himself in and out of trouble after issuing a leadoff walk to Arozarena. The righty allowed the speedy outfielder to advance to second on a stolen base that came after a strikeout, but followed by fanning both Zunino and Jordan Luplow to escape a potential jam.
That sequence paved the way for the Sox to finally break through in their half of the 11th, but they could not muster anything even after Arroyo ripped a one-out double down the left field line off of Robertson to put the winning run in scoring position.
Bobby Dalbec, who previously pinch-ran for Schwarber, whiffed on three straight strikes before Hernandez grounded out to Franco at shortstop to extinguish the threat.
In the 12th, Pivetta continued to impress, as the righty sat down the lone three batters he faced in the inning. With the chance to pick Pivetta up in the bottom half of the frame, though, the trio of Devers, Bogaerts and Verdugo saw a combined six pitches from Luis Patino in yet another 1-2-3 inning.
Back out once more for the 13th, Pivetta endured some late-game drama. With two outs and a runner at first, Kiermaier crushed a 381-foot flyball to right field that nearly left the yard. It instead bounced off the warning track and deflected off Renfroe before caroming into the Red Sox bullpen.
As a result, Kiermaier was rewarded with a ground-rule double, though he and the Rays thought it should have been ruled a triple that would have scored the go-ahead run.
Tampa Bay challenged the call and it was upheld, meaning Kiermaier had to stay at second base while the potential go-ahead run in Diaz remained in third.
Having yet to allow a run, Pivetta followed by fanning Zunino on four pitches to send this one to the bottom of the 13th still deadlocked at four runs each.
At long last, the Red Sox finally responded to Pivetta’s efforts while matched up against Patino.
Martinez flew out and Renfroe drew a six-pitch walk to set the stage for Vazquez, who originally replaced Kevin Plawecki back in the sixth inning.
On the very first pitch he saw from Patino, a 96 mph heater down the heart of the plate, Vazquez absolutely unloaded on it and sent it 394 feet into the first row of Green Monster seats to walk it off for the Red Sox.
With Vazquez’s walk-off two-home run to seal a 6-4 victory, the Red Sox are now just one win away from eliminating the Rays from playoff contention and advancing to the American League Championship Series.
All told, Pivetta tossed four innings of scoreless baseball in which he scattered three hits, struck out seven and walked one batter to pick up the winning decision on Sunday.
Next up: Rodriguez likely for Marathon Monday
Neither the Red Sox or Rays have yet to officially name a starter for Game 4 of this series on Monday, though Cora told reporters Sunday night that the responsibility would likely fall to left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez.
Monday will also mark the first running of the Boston Marathon since April 2019 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so the Sox will have the chance to cap off a special day in the city by to closing out this series with their third straight win.
That being said, first pitch from Fenway Park Monday night is scheduled for 7:07 p.m. eastern time on FS1.
(Picture of Christian Vazquez: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)