The 2013 American League Division Series was not going well for the Tampa Bay Rays.
After playing in must-win games all September long, a beleaguered group of Rays stumbled into Fenway Park and dropped the first two games of the series and faced elimination as they return to Tropicana Field for game three.
The Rays fell behind early in the contest, and trailed Boston 3-0 heading into the bottom of the fifth. Then, Evan Longoria did Evan Longoria things to Clay Buchholz and suddenly the game was tied at three. The Rays manufactured a run in the bottom of the 8th to take a 4-3 lead, but quickly coughed that up in the top of the 9th. Fernando Rodney was able to limit the damage and the game stay tied at 4, as the Rays came up the bottom of the 9th.
Boston’s closer, Koji Uehara, recorded two quick outs, as he was wont to do against the Rays. It looked like the game was destined for extra innings.
Rays backup catcher Jose Lobaton stepped up the plate. Lobaton, who had entered the game in the top half of the inning as a defense replacement for Jose Molina, was having a respectable year at the plate, at least by Rays catcher standards. His .394 slugging percentage, however, made him seem like a guy unlikely to hit that needed long ball.
But Jose didn’t hesitate. On the 0-1 pitch, Lobaton golfed a pitch below the zone and sent it soaring to the right-centerfield gap at Tropicana Field. The ball just kept carrying until it finally flew past the wall and splashed down in the Ray Tank, giving the Rays a 5-4 victory, keeping their season and World Series hopes alive.
Earlier in the season, Lobaton had a running gag with Luke Scott where Scott would reward him with ice cream for a home run. No doubt this key walk-off merited an entire hot fudge sundae.