ARLINGTON, Texas -- It didn't come easy. It seemed like it took forever. But ever so slowly Saturday night, Tampa Bay finally developed the thing it took for granted while terrorizing most of the American League this season.
"It's been a grind," Tampa Bay center fielder B.J. Upton said in this Division Series' biggest understatement. "It's been a grind the first two games. And then to come in here, and their pitcher Colby Lewis was throwing very, very well."
As he spoke, he wore a navy blue T-shirt with white lettering that read, "Just Hit It!"
What a concept.
Say this for the Rays after their 6-3 survival-mode victory to push things with Texas to Game 4: They remain baseball's quirkiest team.
A 96-win outfit that was no-hit twice this summer.
Only the second big-league club since 1900 to score 800 or more runs (802) while hitting .250 or less (.247).
Champions of the big, bad AL East, yet more quiet than a mime against the Rangers until Upton stepped into the box in the sixth with two on, two outs and the Rays trailing 1-0.
To that point, the Rays were 0-for-their-last-14 with runners in scoring position.
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Overall to that point, they were 1 for 15 with 10 strikeouts with RISP.
Far as baseball players go, numbers like that are a great way to, say, move out of the game and into a career in insurance or banking.
"You know you're running out of time," Upton said. "Every at-bat, man, you have to do the best you can. And we did that as a whole."
Better late than never. Welcome back to the land of the living.
Good morning, Tampa Bay.
The, uh, mood in that Rays dugout before Upton finally broke the ice by greeting Texas reliever Derek Holland by ripping a 2-and-1 fastball down the left-field line for an RBI double?
"It's got to break," explained starting pitcher Matt Garza, whose gutsy six-inning, two-run outing helped keep things in check until Tampa Bay's hitters finally reported for duty in this series. "Something's got to give. We've got to keep having great at-bats like we're having.
"We've been hitting the ball hard, but right at people. We needed a squibber, something crazy to happen, an outfield single, something to fall our way."
Some might say something crazy did happen when Upton poked the double.
To that point, the Amazing Disappearing B.J. was 0 for 10 in this series with four whiffs.
But as Texas' parade of six relievers passed through, including closer Neftali Feliz (two hits, one run, one walk in one-third of an inning), the Rays banged them for six runs on nine hits.
In the eighth inning alone, Tampa Bay actually went 2 for 3 with runners in scoring position.
Not to beat a nearly dead Ray into the ground, but through the eighth, when Carlos Pena delivered an RBI single and John Jaso beat Feliz on an 0-and-2 slider to stroke another RBI single, Tampa Bay was 2 for 19 with 11 strikeouts and only one RBI with runners in scoring position.
"They have all kinds of stuff," Rays manager Joe Maddon said of the Texas bullpen. "They have under-armers, 97 miles-an-hour, they've got crafty left-handed veterans, all kinds of goodies out there.
"So when you are able to come back and beat them late, it does something for you."
With barely more than 16 hours between Game 3's conclusion and the first pitch of Game 4 -- 12:07 p.m. local time Sunday -- that last part is the question worth focusing upon.
Will this victory do something for the Rays?
The thinking inside their clubhouse was that preventing Texas' clinching party in Game 3 might cause the Rangers to come out tight in Game 4. It's impossible to tell, especially with the insanely early start time and turnaround.
Tampa Bay has not had a noon start all season, including in spring training. Neither team is expected to take batting practice in the morning, opting instead for using the few precious minutes between games for extra rest.
Meantime, the Rangers still have yet to win a playoff series in franchise history.
"I don't think we gave them anything," Texas manager Ron Washington said. "I think the runs they put on the board, they earned. I didn't see us out there booting balls around. They earned it. It was a tough-fought ballgame.
"The eighth and ninth, they took it. We'll bounce back [Sunday]."
Another quirky Tampa Bay personality trait: As good a comeback team as there is in the game, the Rays outscored their opponents 174-97 over the eighth and ninth innings in 2010.
Maybe they're just sleepy, and it takes them awhile to wake up?
Whatever. They seem wide awake and fully invested in this series now.
"I was so nervous hoping that we didn't get swept," Tampa Bay's free-agent-to-be outfielder Carl Crawford said. "We got so close, just to get out of that feels so much better. ...
"It feels like we're winning the series right now."