By Bradley Walker, 1010 Sports

BOSTON (CBS) With their playoff hopes on the line, the Tampa Bay Rays raised the stakes and took game three of the four-game series by defeating Boston 4-3 in this decisive game down the stretch.

Fenway Park packed in 37, 682 to witness a game that displayed great pitching, clutch hitting and the kind of excitement that is expected when the AL East rivals face each other.

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The Rays have taken 2-of-3 from the series in Boston to pull to within three games of the Red Sox in the AL Wild Card race. A win tomorrow would place Tampa Bay in a great position to make a push past Boston with 10 games remaining after their final game with the Red Sox tomorrow.

Jeff Niemann (11-7) took the hill for the Rays and lasted five innings with four hits and two earned runs allowed. Rookie Matt Moore picked up where Niemann left off in the sixth and gave up only one run in three innings of work. The young gun had electric stuff tonight and shutdown the Red Sox offense with relative ease.

Joel Peralta entered the game in the ninth in the absence of Kyle Farnsworth (elbow injury) and struck out the first two batters before retiring Marco Scutaro to end the game.

Tampa Bay’s offense showed no sign of decay, with Ben Zobrist cranking a two-run homer in the first to give the Rays an early 2-0 lead.

Desmond Jennings scored on a wild pitch in the third with some heads up base running to put Tampa Bay up 3-0. Niemann hit a rough patch in the bottom of the third, giving up two runs to cut the lead to 3-2.

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If the Rays want to have any shot of making the playoffs, they need to win tomorrow and put their fate in their own hands. You can’t expect Boston to slack, and skipper Joe Maddon knows his team’s level of play has increased tenfold during their playoff push.

“We played two great games two nights in a row. We played well. The intensity, all that stuff, is where it needs to be. We’re already playing playoff baseball now, and we’re not to the playoffs yet. I think it’s fantastic.”

Game four will be an afternoon start scheduled for 1:35 PM ET. David Price gets the nod against knuckle baller Tim Wakefield.



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