Rays owner Stuart Sternberg relieved to avoid sweep

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — A day later, Tampa Bay Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg is still excited about the result of Game 3 in this American League Division Series.

Sternberg called catcher Jose Lobaton’s game-ending, 412-foot solo homer Monday “absolutely the most unexpected moment.” The hit, which became the third to splashdown into the Rays Touch Tank in center field, gave the Rays a 5-4 victory at Tropicana Field and narrowed the Red Sox’s lead in this best-of-five series to two games to one.

“It just stopped,” Sternberg said. “Everything stopped and ended.”

On Tuesday, Sternberg spoke with reporters before Game 4 at Tropicana Field, still living a high from the previous night. He said the wild victory not only preserved Tampa Bay’s season, but it also helped save face against an American League East rival.

“It would have been unbelievably embarrassing to lose three straight to these guys, especially these guys,” Sternberg said of the Red Sox. “But the game was going on, and as long as you had air in your system, it was unbelievable.”

He shied away from offering a Game 4 prediction, but he embraced the Rays’ come-from-behind role. If the Rays win Tuesday night, a decisive Game 5 will be played Thursday at Fenway Park.

“Most people don’t expect us to be in Boston,” Sternberg said.

“I actually feel good about that. … It’s more about human nature. Life has a way of doing the thing that most people least expect.”

You can follow Andrew Astleford on Twitter @aastleford or email him at aastleford@gmail.com.