Having failed to put away the Tampa Bay Rays Monday night in Game 3 of the American League Division Series, the Red Sox will try again Tuesday in a matchup that offers two teams with contrasting identities. Beyond the obvious significant differences in resources and payroll -- the Red Sox have the third-biggest payroll in baseball, the Rays one of the three smallest -- there is a more subtle distinction.
Since the start of the season, the Red Sox have prided themselves in their ability to move on from disappointment. No matter how deflated they may appear in the aftermath of a tough setback, the Sox have routinely isolated their losses. What's done is done, they seem to believe, and there's no sense -- or benefit -- from taking a tough defeat into the next day.
Part of that stems from John Farrell's admonition to focus on the game at hand, without looking ahead to the next series or next opponent or, for that matter, back at what might have been. "I wish we had won the game," said Jake Peavy after Jose Lobaton had belted a two-out walkoff homer off Koji Uejara to give the Rays a 5-4 win on Monday. "[But] this team will be ready. We'll be bounce back."
Added Shane Victorino: "We're still up, 2-1. We're still in the driver's seat. We have go out there [Tuesday] and win another one." "We're coming back hungry,'' declared David Ortiz.
That sort of attitude is what helped the Red Sox prevent falling into long losing streaks. All season long, they never lost more than three games in succession. the only such streak in the American League. The next day was always viewed as a chance to start a new winning streak, an opportunity to win another game. There was no looking back, no hangover. "This team has a unique ability to focus on the task at hand,'' Farrell said more than once.
Across the way, the Rays are working with a different dynamic. Since winning the final game of the regular season to set up a playoff with the Texas Rangers the next night for the final A.L. wild-card spot, the Rays have been living on the edge for the better part of the last week-and-a-half. Monday's victory was yet another elimination game that the Rays stared down.
It happened in regular-season game No. 162 in Toronto, which the Rays had to win to force the one-game playoff in Texas. It happened the again following night in Arlington, where, behind a brilliant complete-game effort from David Price, they won and officially advanced to the postseason. It happened again two nights laterk when the Rays dispatched a pesky Cleveland Indians team in the wild-card play-in game. And it happened yet again Monday, when the Rays were within a few innings -- 13 outs, actually -- of being swept out of the Division Series.
"We all understand that we have our backs against the wall," said Evan Longoria, whose three-run homer with two outs in the fifth tied the game and set the stage for Lobaton's heroics two hours later. "And it seems like those moments have been fueling us. These are the games that we've really played well in. Although you'd like to be on the other side, maybe we need that right now."
It's as if the Rays are feeding off their on desperation. With no choice but to win or go home for the winter, they keep choosing the former. Game 4, Tuesday night. Short memories, or no margin for error? Whom do you like?