ST. PETERSBURG -- Obviously, Game 3 is pivotal for both teams. The team that wins will have a 2-1 advantage, putting the other team on the brink of elimination.
Rays manager Joe Maddon was asked about the significance of winning Game 3.
"You want to believe it's very big," Maddon said, "especially when you're home like this. If we could gain momentum going into [Tuesday], day game after a night game, you think of all these crazy things -- of course, at home, winning the third game, with a day game to follow. It's a pretty good warm fuzzy at that point.
"You want to be able to be in that position. Then again, if you're not. ... it's September again, and it's last year again when we're down 2-0 -- go over there, win two games, come back. We've been in these moments before. All I ask of our guys to do is stay in the present tense. Go out there and play. Don't try and overthink it. See what happens."
While the Rays don't want to be down 2-1, they are used to playing in elimination games. In fact, the month of September had the feel of playing in an elimination game almost every night. Maddon was asked if his team would have any sort of benefit from having played under those circumstances.
"I don't know if there's a benefit," Maddon said. "But I'll say this, our guys won't be overly impacted by the thought. We have been faced with these moments many times [over the last] month. I just did my walking around in the food room and every place else. They seem to be pretty much the same group. Regardless of what happens tonight, I expect us to be the same way tomorrow. And that's the beauty of our group, right now. We've been able to maintain this present-tense mentality."
Jaso gets start behind plate for Game 3
ST. PETERSBURG -- Rays manager Joe Maddon said he mulled over Game 3's lineup while on a bike ride on Monday morning before coming up with what he called his best guess.
Catcher Kelly Shoppach, who homered twice in Game 1 and drove in another run on Saturday, was not in the starting lineup to face Texas right-hander Colby Lewis.
John Jaso, whose go-ahead two-out RBI single in Game 3 of last year's American League Division Series gave Tampa its first lead of that series, was penciled in.
During the regular season, Jaso caught 18 of David Price's 34 starts. With Jaso as a battery mate, Price has a 3.34 ERA. Price holds a 3.58 ERA in 14 starts with Shoppach behind the dish.
At shortstop, left-handed-hitting Reid Brignac will get the start over the righty Sean Rodriguez, who is 0-for-8 in the ALDS.
"We do a lot of our own little work, and there was a lot of evenness between Reid and Sean," Maddon said. "But looking a little bit more deeply into Lewis, you look at his numbers, right and left, they are incredibly different -- even to the point where I was somewhat toying with the idea of messing with the batting order a little bit, because he has been kind of deft on righties."
Lewis has drastically different splits against left-handed and right-handed hitters. Righties are hitting just .204, while lefties are .274.
"I wanted to keep the integrity at the top with those three guys that are doing a great job, and just stack the left-handers," Maddon said. "Thinking about it and trying to come to some good conclusions, and we are very fluid on a daily basis regarding our lineups and the structure, etc."
Farnsworth available for Game 3 work
ST. PETERSBURG -- After being unavailable to pitch in the first two games of the American League Division Series, Rays closer Kyle Farnsworth said he is good to go, if needed, in Game 3 at Tropicana Field on Monday.
Farnsworth has been dealing with right elbow soreness since the beginning of September. Whether he can pitch in consecutive games will be determined by how he feels on a day-to-day basis.
"It's the playoffs, so you've got to be ready every day," Farnsworth said.
The 35-year-old right-hander returned to action on Sept. 24 after sitting two weeks, and pitched four of the next five days -- including the last three regular-season games.
"We just have to monitor it. So going into [Monday's] game, based on what he told me the last couple of days, I think he's feeling pretty good," Rays manager Joe Maddon said.
In his first season with the Rays, Farnsworth is 5-1 with a 2.18 ERA and a career-high 25 saves. In 63 games, he has thrown 57 2/3 innings.
"If he's ready to roll, he'd be the guy at the end," Maddon said.
Longoria climbs playoff home run charts
ST. PETERSBURG -- In the seventh inning of Game 2, Evan Longoria's three-run homer off Koji Uehara gave him eight career postseason home runs. He now ranks fourth in Major League history in playoff home runs before the age of 26.
Ahead of Longoria on the list are: Albert Pujols, 10; Mickey Mantle, 9; and Manny Ramirez, 9.
Longoria's home run off Uehara came in just his 23rd career postseason game -- the same number of games it took Mantle, Pujols and Duke Snider to hit eight postseason home runs.
The Rays third baseman is one of 10 to reach eight home runs in 23 games or sooner. Carlos Beltran was the fastest to eight postseason home runs, doing it in nine games.
Longoria also took over as Rays' all-time leader in postseason home runs, passing teammate B.J. Upton, who has seven.
Tuesday's Game 4 at Tropicana Field will be played at 2:07 p.m. ET, which is a time manager Joe Maddon said was "not optimal from our perspective, but it doesn't surprise me. I just like to play later in the day. Just play later in the day, get a little better night's sleep, don't have to get up as early, that kind of stuff. But we've been a better day team this year. That's the one thing, even last year in Texas, we had two day games and played well. We've kind of turned the corner on that. I'm not upset about with it. I just prefer [later]."
The Rays are 34-24 in day games this year, which was the sixth-best winning percentage in the Majors this season. The Rangers are 10th with a 26-22 mark.
Tickets are still available for Game 4 of the American League Division Series at the club's website, through all Rays ticket outlets, including the Tropicana Field box office, Rays Tampa Pro Shop & Ticket Outlet, all Ticketmaster locations and by calling 888-FAN-RAYS.
Jeff Niemann threw a bullpen session Sunday, and according to Maddon, the outing went well for the right-hander, who worked through some upper-back tightness late in the season. "He said he felt really good," Maddon said. "I talked to him afterwards. He was very pleased. You could see it in his face. I said, 'Did you feel any kind of restriction?' He said no, that he felt really good." Niemann is not active for this round of the playoffs. Maddon said if the Rays advance to the AL Championship Series, they will re-visit Niemann's status.
When Jeremy Hellickson starts for the Rays in Game 4, it will be only the 10th time since 1900 that a team has used two rookie starters in the postseason. The 2007 Rockies were the last team, with Ubaldo Jimenez and Franklin Morales.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. Christina De Nicola is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.