It was four-plus hours of sloppy baseball, questionable managing decisions and turning points galore, and it was only fitting it would end in the most improbable way imaginable.
And Jose Lobaton hitting a walkoff home run off Koji Uehara with nobody on and two outs in the bottom of the ninth qualifies as the most improbable way imaginable.
The light-hitting Rays catcher cranked one toward the fish tanks in right-center field off Uehara -- the first homer, and only the second run, allowed by the Sox closer since June 30 -- and gave the Rays a season-saving 5-4 victory over the Red Sox in Game 3 of the ALDS at Tropicana Field Monday night.
"An interesting, wonderful game to stay solvent with," said Rays manager Joe Maddon.
The Sox now lead the best-of-five series, 2-1, with Game 4 scheduled for Tuesday night at 8:30 p.m.
"We've been through a lot of [dramatic moments] around here in the last several years," said Maddon. "That ranks right up there with the best stuff, obviously . . . It's really an incredible day for the Rays."
It was an incredible day for the Red Sox, too . . . though not in the same way.
They had jumped out to a 3-0 lead after 4 1/2 innings, but Evan Longoria -- whom Farrell elected to pitch to with runners at second and third and two outs -- cranked a game-tying home run to left off Clay Buchholz. It was just the first of a series of moments that will provide fodder for second-guessers at both ends of the East Coast . . .
-- Farrell used his two main set-up relievers, Craig Breslow and Junichi Tazawa, in the seventh inning, and entrusted the eighth (when the Rays took the lead) to his fourth- and fifth-best relievers, Franklin Morales and Brandon Workman. Sure enough, Tampa Bay was able to push across the go-ahead run against Morales and Workman, albeit with a lot of help from the Sox defense. (More on that in a moment.)
-- When David Ortiz led off the top of the eighth with a walk, Farrell lifted him for a pinch-runner . . . taking their biggest bat out of the lineup. The strategy technically worked -- Quintin Berry, the pinch-runner, was able to steal second -- but the Sox weren't able to score. And in the ninth inning, with the score tied, Ortiz's spot came around with the go-ahead run on third and two out. Mike Carp was sent up to hit and, after moving ahead in the count 3-and-0, he took a called third strike to end the inning.
-- The bottom of the eighth . . . Where to begin?
Start with the leadoff walk Morales allowed to James Loney.
Desmond Jennings pushed a bunt down the first-base line and Mike Napoli converged on the ball with Morales, leaving first base uncovered. Dustin Pedroia -- who sprinted over from second -- couldn't get to the bag fast enough, and Jennings was safe, putting runners on first and second with no outs.
After Matt Joyce popped out on a bunt attempt, Yunel Escobar then hit a potential double-play grounder up the middle. It was tailor-made for Stephen Drew to grab the ball, step on the bag and throw to first, but Pedroia also went after it and wound up colliding with Drew, preventing him from making any play at all. Instead of the inning being over, the bases were loaded with one out.
Pinch-hitter Delmon Young grounded sharply to Napoli, but pinch-runner Sam Fuld was off on contact and Napoli had no chance to throw him out at the plate. Fuld scored, and the Rays led, 4-3.
-- Then it was the Rays' turn to provide some head-scratching moments. Closer Fernando Rodney walked the leadoff hitter, Will Middlebrooks, and then allowed a bloop single to left by Jacoby Ellsbury. Shane Victorino bunted the runners along and Maddon chose not to play the infield in to cut off the tying run. Sure enough, Pedroia hit a routine grounder to short -- a play that would have frozen pinch-runner Xander Bogaerts at third had the infield been in -- and, because Escobar was playing deep, Bogaerts sprinted in from third to make it 4-4.
And then Lobaton kept the Rays solvent.
"That’s a hell of a game," said Ortiz. "You can’t ask for more than that.”
Now there'll be another one on Tuesday.