John Jaso lined a tiebreaking RBI single in the eighth inning after Carlos Pena delivered a rare clutch playoff hit for Tampa Bay, and the Rays avoided elimination in the AL division series with a 6-3 victory over the Texas Rangers on Saturday.
The Rays, the AL's best team in the regular season, cut their deficit in the best-of-five series to 2-1. Game 4 is today.
"I was so nervous, hoping we didn't get swept," said Carl Crawford, who homered for the Rays. "I feel so much better. It feels like we're winning the series right now."
Limited to a total of one run while losing the first two games at home, Tampa Bay broke loose in the late innings.
With the record crowd of 51,746 still buzzing from Ian Kinsler's leadoff homer in the seventh that put the Rangers up and appeared to set the stage for a series-clinching victory 50 seasons in the making, Dan Johnson doubled off the wall with one out in the Rays eighth. Pena followed with an RBI single that made it 2-all.
After B.J. Upton struck out for the fifth time in the series, reliever Darren O'Day was pulled after facing only one batter. Rangers manager Ron Washington made a curious move, bringing in All-Star closer Neftali Feliz. The hard-throwing righty set a major league rookie record with 40 saves in the regular season.
Feliz walked Jason Bartlett, the No. 9 hitter in Tampa Bay's order, before Jaso's liner to center gave the Rays their first lead in the series.
"I was going to use him on Jaso anyway," Washington explained. "Nefti comes in and don't walk Bartlett and get out of that inning, and we're going to the ninth inning with a tie ball game and I'm bringing my closer in there anyway."
Crawford led off the ninth with a homer to chase Feliz, and Pena added a two-run shot off reliever Dustin Nippert.
The AL West Division champion Rangers, in their 39th season in Texas after 11 seasons as the Washington Senators, still have never won a home playoff game (0-5).