Botched play, homer lead Sox to key win

by Gary Shelton on October 11, 2021

in general

Kiermaier's double was a controversial play./TIM WIRT

Monday, 4 a.m.

The Boston Red Sox won a huge baseball game Sunday night after an outfielder made the ugliest play of the night.

Call it the night the Sox flubbed their way to victory.

Boston took a 2-1 lead in the ALDS in a five-hour, 13-inning game that was ended by Christian Vasquez's walk-off home run. That leaves the Sox one game from ending the season of the Rays and advancing to the ALCS.

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But for Tampa Bay, the game boiled down to one awkward, misplayed ball in right field. That one will fester as long as there are debates of the rules and the right result on the play.

It was in the top of the 13th inning, with centerfielder Kevin Kiermaier at bat and Yandy Diaz on first in a 4-4 tie. Kiermaier launched a deep fly ball to right with Diaz running on the pitch.

The ball hit the base of the fence and bounded back. It hit right fielder Hunter Renfroe -- a former Ray -- on the right hip and bounded over the fence, a particularly oafish effort. As the ball bounced out of the field of play, Diaz was rounding third and Kiermaier was rounding second.

The rule, however, said that because the ball was knocked out of the park unintentionally, it was a ground rule double and both runners had to go back to second and third, respectively, even though Diaz was going to score easily if the ball had remained in the field. In essence, the Red Sox profited from Renfroe's oafish play.

"I’m just in awe right now," Kiermaier said after the game. "You know, that’s the ruling. The umpires explained it to me. I can’t  go against that. The rules are what they are. But man, that’s a heartbreaker. I can’t believe that happened or we don’t get the chance to score right there.

"For one, I crushed the ball. I was just hoping to see it leave the yard. I’ve got a lot of snap and crackle but no pop. For that to happen, it doesn’t make sense to me. The ruling is what it is. It’s hard. It would have put us in a different situation and put the pressure on them there in the 13th inning. For the ball to bounce off the wall and then hit a player and go over, I can’t believe that’s a ground rule double. Yandy would have scored standing up."

True, the Rays still had a chance with runners on second and third (Mike Zunino struck out). The Rays were one-for-nine with runners in scoring position.

Still, it comes down to this. The Rays made a good play. The Red Sox made a lousy play. And the Red Sox got the advantage.

"By rule, it’s just a ground-rule double," said Rays' manager Kevin Cash. "That’s what the umpires met and got together. I saw the replay. Obviously nothing intentional about it.  That’s just the rule. It was very unfortunate for us. It was fairly obvious that Yandy was  going to come around and score. It didn’t go our way."

A couple of other close calls didn't, either. In the top of the eighth, Randy Arozarena doubled in the tying run but collided with Boston first baseman Kyle Schwarber as he rounded first.

 "It was obstruction," Cash said. "They didn’t think he was going to get to third base. He probably belonged at second."

Another replay went against the Rays when Manuel Margot singled and tried to steal second. Margot was out after over sliding the base, although replays seemed to indicate he wasn't tagged while he was off the base. Umpires upheld the out call, however.

Except for the close calls, however, the Rays were fortunate to be in the game. Boston had another 15 hits (they have 44 in three games), and starter Nate Eovaldi shut down the Rays after a first-inning homer by Austin Meadows. But a homer by Wander Franco and Arozarena's double tied the game in the eighth.

The Rays and Red Sox both will have to piece together their pitching today. Cash was even asked if Shane McClanahan or Shane Baz could possibly come back (Baz pitched just 2 1/3 innings in Game Two), but said discussions had not started about pitching.

"We’ve got to put our big boy pants on and do everything we can to win a ballgame," Kiermaier said. "We always bounce back when we have our backs to the wall. If there is any team that can do it it's us. You have to believe that and come out and do whatever it takes."

Said Cash: "We've got to win tomorrow. We don’t have many choices. Today was a really big win for them and a really tough loss for us. We put ourselves in a little bit of a bind."

Diaz said it was "10 thousand percent" that the Rays would bounce back.

Tonight's game starts at 7:07 p.m.

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