AP Sports Writer
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — Evan Longoria woke up feeling much better about Tampa Bay’s chances of rebounding against the Boston Red Sox.
Not that it will be easy to overcome a 2-0 deficit in the best-of-5 AL division series matchup that resumes Monday night at Tropicana Field. But to have any chance of succeeding, the Rays star said players can’t dwell on being on the brink of elimination yet again.
It took winning three consecutive elimination games just to get into the division series. And now, it will take three more to beat Red Sox and reach the league championship series against Oakland or Detroit.
“I don’t think we let our guard down at all. I think we just got outplayed,” Longoria said after an optional team workout Sunday.
“They swung the bats better, they pitched better,” the three-time All-Star added. “At some point you’ve got to be able to admit that and turn the page and go to the next day.”
Alex Cobb, who beat Cleveland last Wednesday in the AL wild-card game, will carry the Rays’ hopes to the mound in Game 3. Right-hander Clay Buchholz will start for the Red Sox, who outscored Tampa Bay 19-6 in the opening two games at Fenway Park.
History doesn’t favor the Rays. Of the previous 22 AL teams that have lost the first two games of a division series, only four rallied to advance.
Tampa Bay was able to force a Game 5 after dropping the first two in the 2010 division series, however the Rangers went on to play for the pennant.
Boston has won 14 of 21 games this year between the AL East rivals.
“That’s been a consistent approach that we’ve taken throughout the course of the year. We haven’t gotten ahead of ourselves,” Boston manager John Farrell said. “We haven’t carried on a thought or a feeling of what has taken place the night or the series before. And I think everyone is eager to get back on the field tomorrow.”
The Rays made uncharacteristic mistakes in the first two games, and their inability to hit in key situations undermined any chance of overcoming gaffes.
Longoria thinks that being back home after two weeks on the road will help. When the team plane landed in Tampa early Sunday, it concluded a five-city, 12-day, 5,631-mile trek.
The Rays won their regular season finale in Toronto, forcing a one-game tiebreaker at Texas to determine the second AL wild card. They beat the Rangers to reach the playoffs, then Cobb shut down the Indians 4-0 in the wild-card game.
“I like our chances here. We played really well down the stretch. I know our home fans will be out in full force, and I think our record speaks for itself. When we’ve had a full house, we’ve played pretty well,” Longoria said.
The Rays were last in the major leagues in home attendance, averaging 18,645. Game 3 has been announced as a sellout, although tickets remain available for a possible Game 4 on Tuesday.
Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon said he doesn’t plan any changes. To get back into the series, he feels the Rays have to play better offensively.
“We have just not scored runs on these guys,” Maddon said. “We have not been able to get any kind of lead and hold on to leads, and that’s generally what we do best.”
Before leaving Fenway Park after Saturday’s 7-4 loss in Game 2, the Rays skipper expressed confidence his team was capable of taking two games in St. Petersburg. Maddon reiterated that belief Sunday.
“Listen, we’ve been in these moments in the very recent past. We’ve always prided ourselves on one day at a time approach,” he said.
“To carry negativity with you does absolutely no good whatsoever. You learn from your mistakes, no question, but move it along. I really expect us to be in the present tense tomorrow,” he added. “And with that, we’ve shown in the recent past what we can do when we’re able to file things and move it along.”
Cobb went 11-3 with a 2.25 ERA this year in his first full season in the majors, including 7-0 with a 2.81 ERA in 13 starts at home.
“He has good stuff, man,” said Boston’s David Ortiz, who homered twice off David Price on Saturday. “I watched him pitch the other day against Cleveland, and his stuff … he was on. Tampa Bay has great pitching. You can never doubt them. You’ve got to come in, play well because they are just like we are. The minute you make a mistake, they hunt you down. Good teams, that’s what it’s all about.”
There are plenty of reasons for the Red Sox to feel comfortable with their starting pitcher, too.
Buchholz has beaten Tampa Bay twice this season, allowing five hits in 13 scoreless innings. He has a career 2.41 ERA in 16 starts against the Rays, including 2.26 in nine starts at Tropicana Field.
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