The Tampa Bay Rays and Boston Red Sox are playing an intense best-of-5 ALDS series after battling it out in a historically strong AL East all season long. The Rays entered the playoffs as the favorites in the AL after making the World Series last season and hitting 100 wins for the first time in franchise history during this regular season. The Red Sox earned their way into the ALDS by winning 92 games during the regular season and beating their forever rival the New York Yankees in the Wild Card game.
Tampa Bay shutout Boston to take the opener. The Red Sox’s bats exploded in Game 2 for a blowout victory to tie the series at 1-1. That set the stage for Game 3 as the series moved to Fenway Park, where the Rays and Red Sox played an October classic fitting for such a charged atmosphere. Boston won on a walk-off home run from Christian Vázquez to put them one win away from advancing to the ALCS.
But before Vazquez’s shot, an obscure rule and a bizarre stroke of good luck for Boston helped keep Tampa from scoring the go-ahead run in the top of the 13th inning.
The teams headed to extra innings tied 4-4 when the Rays mounted a scoring threat in the top of the 13th inning. Yandy Díaz singled to put a runner on with two outs for Kevin Kiermaier. Kiermaier hammered the sixth pitch of the at-bat from Boston pitcher Nick Pivetta, but it hit the top of the wall, where it bounced off Red Sox outfielder Hunter Renfroe and went over the wall.
Yandy was already close to rounding third base and was clearly on his way to scoring the go-ahead run, but instead the play was ruled as a ground rule double. That meant Yandy had to go back to third, where he would be stranded when the Rays made the final out of the inning.
There was a ton of confusion when the ruling was initially made, but the umpires made the right call. According to MLB rules, any ball knocked over the fence by a position player is ruled as a ground double. Yes, baseball rules actually reward the outfielder for botching the play.
Here’s the official rule that states any fair ball that is deflected by the fielder into the stands means the batter and all runners are entitled to two bases.
The Rays would have scored one run if the ball wasn’t accidentally knocked over the wall by Renfroe, but it wouldn’t have been good enough anyway. That’s because Renfroe walked in the bottom of the 13th to put one man on for Vazquez when he came to the plate.
On the first pitch of the at-bat, Vazquez smacked a homer to give Boston the win.
Cash said after the game he knew the rule so he didn’t challenge the play. That’s because his team has been involved in this exact type of situation before.
In a 2019 game against the Blue Jays, the Rays accidentally deflected the ball into the stands and it ended up saving them a run. Watch it here:
In 2019 Kevin Cash came out to argue about a ball deflected into the stands that the runner on first should be stopped at 3rd base. He was correct and the umps got it right, just like tonight. pic.twitter.com/8ltZ0DXgu4
— Red Sox Stats (@redsoxstats) October 11, 2021
This was a tough break for the Rays, but credit Vazquez for ending the game in Boston’s favor with one swing of the bat in the bottom half of the inning.
Suddenly, the Rays’ season is on the line, and the Red Sox are in prime position to reach the doorstep of the pennant. Baseball never stops finding new ways to amaze and confuse us.