ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Joe Maddon summoned everybody to pitch for the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field Tuesday night. The guy who feeds the sting rays in the Rays’ tank. The gyrating grounds crew guy. The security lady who was checking bags before the game and found a set of false teeth.
Any time Maddon touched either arm, even if it was just to scratch his elbow, a new pitcher entered.
Duke Knutson, the press box attendant. Dave Wills, the radio play-by-play man. Don Zimmer.
Maddon used so many pitchers, TBS ran out of commercials.
The guy who waves the pizza flag for free pies for 10 strikeouts. Dick Vitale, the Rays’ No. 1 fan. Ben Zobrist’s wife, the anthem singer.
Maddon used more pitchers than the Rays have fans, or so it seemed.
Wade Boggs, an original member of the Rays. Lou Piniella, the ex-manager. The guy who runs the Third Base Luncheonette in Hazleton, Pa., Maddon’s hometown.
Rocco Baldelli, who threw out the ceremonial first pitch, was lifted only slightly more quickly than Maddon pulled his original starter, Jeremy Hellickson, yanked in the second inning of a scoreless tie. Five more pitchers proceeded to the mound by the seventh inning, and the Red Sox still hadn’t scored.
Maddon managed like there was no tomorrow, which there isn’t for his team anymore, even though Tampa Bay used nine pitchers -- none for more than two innings -- before succumbing 3-1 to the Red Sox, who eliminated the Rays three games to one to advance to the ALCS to face the winner of the Detroit Tigers-Oakland A's series.
Red Sox manager John Farrell, meanwhile, managed like there was no yesterday. What he insisted was absolutely clear-cut Monday -- not to use Xander Bogaerts to pinch hit for Stephen Drew against Rays left-hander Jake McGee -- made perfect sense Tuesday night.
Did it ever. Bogaerts, as precocious a rookie as the Red Sox have developed in years, patiently drew a one-out walk from McGee, who had spooked the Sox the night before with an overpowering eighth inning, in which he struck out Jarrod Saltalamacchia and retired Drew on a pop fly with two on.
Bogaerts went from first to third on a single by Jacoby Ellsbury, whose nine hits made him Boston’s eminent batsman in the series, prompting Maddon to gesture for his sixth pitcher of the night, Joel Peralta. Maddon might as well have been hailing a cab to take him home.
Peralta’s first pitch bounced through catcher Jose Lobaton for a wild pitch, allowing Bogaerts to score and Ellsbury, who had second base stolen, to cruise into third. From there, Ellsbury scored on Shane Victorino’s infield chopper to short, the Red Sox accomplishing with speed -- a rare concept in Boston annals -- what they had once achieved only by bashing people into submission.
More evidence that Farrell hit “delete, memory” from the night before: After a sensational five-out stint from Craig Breslow (four strikeouts, an infield hit) in relief of Jake Peavy (5⅔ innings, one run), the Sox manager called upon Koji Uehara to record the final four outs, even though it was Uehara who had given up Lobaton’s walk-off home run on Monday.
Farrell had spoken Tuesday afternoon with his Japanese closer. “He’s fine,” Farrell said. “He’s good to go.”
Was he ever. (Do you sense a pattern here?) After Farrell got the matchup he wanted for setup man Junichi Tazawa -- waiting for Sean Rodriguez to be announced as a pinch hitter before bringing in the right-hander -- Maddon summoned slump-ridden Matt Joyce, who struck out.
Uehara then entered and struck out David DeJesus to end the inning. By the time he took the mound again, the Sox had added another run, with Bogaerts walking again and coming around on a walk, hit batsman and sacrifice fly by Dustin Pedroia.
David Price, who would have started Game 5 on Thursday, was warming up in the bullpen when Wil Myers flied to deep center. James Loney hit a ball off Uehara’s glove that deflected to Pedroia, who threw him out. Standing between the Red Sox and their first trip back to the ALCS since 2008 -- when they were eliminated by these same Rays -- was Evan Longoria, the face of the franchise.
Longoria took a half-swing at a 1-and-2 pitch, and plate umpire Paul Emmel threw out his right hand signaling strike three. Uehara, again back to the future, leaped into the arms of catcher David Ross.