Ground Rule Trouble: Red Sox bounce Rays in 13 on odd call
BOSTON — Kevin Kiermaier’s line drive sailed over right fielder Hunter Renfroe’s head and bounced off the short wall in front of the Boston bullpen and back onto the warning track. It ricocheted off Renfroe and into the air.
The Red Sox right fielder waved at it desperately — and unsuccessfully — to keep it from going out of play.
It’s a good thing he couldn’t.
Saved by an obscure rule and a bounce that was weird even for quirky Fenway Park, the Red Sox staggered Tampa Bay 6-4 Sunday night on Christian Vázquez’s 13th-inning walk-off homer to move one victory from eliminating the 100-win Rays from the AL Division Series.
“I was speechless,” said center fielder Kiké Hernandez, who had come over to back up Renfroe. “I don’t know if you guys have seen that before. I’ve never seen that before in my life.
“I wasn’t sure what was going to get called. I wasn’t sure if the runners had to return. … Like, I had no idea,” he said. “Luckily, it went our way. And you call it home-field advantage if you want — call it whatever you want — but we won.”
The wild-card Red Sox took a 2-1 edge in the best-of-five matchup. Game 4 is Monday at Fenway — Marathon Day in Boston — with Game 5 in St. Petersburg, Florida, on Wednesday, if necessary.
Tampa Bay rallied from a 4-2 deficit to tie it in the eighth inning and it was still 4-all when Yandy Diaz singled with one out in the 13th.
Then came the play that had the umpires scurrying for the rulebook and the Rays scratching their heads.
Diaz was halfway from second to third when Kiermaier’s ball bounced over the 5-foot-high wall, and he easily would have scored had it remained in play. But the umpires conferred and went to the headsets before awarding Kiermaier a double and sending Diaz back to third.
Baseball Rule 5.05(a)(8) states: “Any bounding fair ball is deflected by the fielder into the stands, or over or under a fence on fair or foul territory, in which case the batter and all runners shall be entitled to advance two bases.”
“If I stayed at second, that’s fine,” Kiermaier said. “But I was hoping to see that Yandy scored, because he would have scored obviously. … It’s incredible that it worked out to their advantage just like that.”
Rays manager Kevin Cash said he watched the replay and it was obvious Renfroe didn’t knock it over the wall on purpose.
“That’s just the rule. That’s the way it goes. It was very unfortunate for us,” he said. “I think it was fairly obvious that K.K. or Yandy was going to come around to score, but it didn’t go our way.”
Said umpire crew chief Sam Holbrook: “It’s in the rulebook. It’s a ground-rule double. There’s no discretion that the umpires have.”
“There’s no, ‘He would have done this, would have done that.’ It’s just flat-out in the rule book, it’s a ground-rule double,” he said.
When play resumed, Nick Pivetta struck out Mike Zunino to end the inning and came bounding off the mound in celebration.
Renfroe walked with one out in the bottom half, then Vázquez hit the first pitch from Luis Patiño over the Green Monster to end it.
Hernández and Kyle Schwarber each had three hits, including a homer, for Boston.
The teams play again on Monday night, with the starters to be announced. Nick Pivetta had been expected to start for Boston and Patiño for the Rays, but both pitched in Game 3. Red Sox manager Alex Cora said it would most likely be Eduardo Rodriguez.