The Tampa Bay Rays are still facing elimination, but their confidence is growing.
After extending their season another day, the visiting Rays look to even the best-of-5 AL division series with a second straight road victory over the Texas Rangers in Game 4 on Sunday.
Losers in the first two games at home and staring down elimination, Tampa Bay rallied from a pair of one-run deficits and scored five runs in the final two innings for a 6-3 victory Saturday.
After being held to eight hits and outscored 11-1 in the first two games, the Rays totaled 11 hits to thwart the Rangers’ chances of a sweep.
“Your back is against the wall and everything seems to be going against you, the odds are against you,” said Pena, who did not play in Game 2 after going 0 for 3 with three strikeouts in the opener. “Then you get this pause and you’re able to focus on the task at hand. We did that and it’s extremely powerful.
“We keep on fighting for the impossible and the next thing you know, it materializes.”
Still, Tampa Bay still has a bit of an uphill climb to force a deciding Game 5.
Prior to this postseason, 38 division-round series started 2-0. Only four have gone to five games, and all four were won by the club that lost the first two.
However, of the 16 teams before this year to lose the first two games of a division series at home, only the 2001 New York Yankees swept the next three against Oakland to advance.
The Rangers, meanwhile, remain the only current major league team that has never won a postseason series. They will try for a sixth time to win the franchise’s first home playoff game.
That again could fall in favor of the Rays, who posted a major league-best 47-34 mark away from home. They also won’t put any extra pressure on themselves.
“There’s no extraordinary effort necessary,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said. “I want nothing other than just going out there and having pretty much a good old time and really not overanalyzing anything.”
After going 1 for 8 in the first two games, Crawford was 2 for 5 with a homer Saturday. The All-Star outfielder is batting .333 with two homers in nine career postseason road contests.
“I will feel confident physically and mentally to go out there and do my job,” said Davis, 12-10 with a 4.07 ERA in 29 starts during his first full season.
Though the right-hander feels confident, his worst start of the year came when he allowed eight runs in 3 1-3 innings of a 9-6 road loss in his only previous appearance against Texas on June 4.
“They are really aggressive, they attack you,” Davis said. “They are definitely a team you can’t take for granted and you have to stay on top of.”
Texas totaled 19 hits at Tropicana Field this week, but was held to six in Game 3. Ian Kinsler(notes) and Nelson Cruz(notes) each hit their second homers of the series as the Rangers increased their home run total to six through three games.
Kinsler is 4 for 11 with three RBIs in the series.
The 24-year-old right-hander followed up a nine-win 2009 season by going 13-4 with a 3.75 ERA in 22 starts. He’s been extremely tough lately, going 1-1 with a 2.53 ERA in his last four starts.
“I’ve always like played behind Tommy,” Rangers third baseman Michael Young(notes) said. “He trusts his stuff and he’s out there trying to throw good pitches and he’s aggressive in the strike zone. Those are the kind of guys you want to play defense behind.”
Hunter is 2-1 with a 3.63 ERA in four starts versus Tampa Bay, including 2-0 with a 1.26 ERA at home. He recorded his second career complete game after allowing a run and five hits in a 6-1 win over the Rays on June 5.
If needed, Game 5 would be Tuesday in St. Petersburg, Fla.