BOSTON – Kevin Kiermaier was confident Yandy Diaz would score and give the Tampa Bay Rays a 5-4 lead in the 13th inning of the crucial Game 3 of Sunday night’s American League Division Series against the Boston Red. Sox.
The Rays outfielder hit the ball against Fenway Park’s right field fence, the ball bouncing off the ground before deflecting as it collided with the right hip of Red Sox right fielder Hunter Renfroe and jumped over the fence.
If the ball hadn’t bounced off the fence, Diaz would have easily scored. Instead, crew chief Sam Holbrook called the umpires back into the infield and they made a decision: The ball would be declared a rule double and Diaz would have to return to third base. The scoreboard would remain tied at 4, only to be broken half an inning later by a home run by Red Sox catcher Christian Vázquez, cementing a 6-4 Boston victory and setting the stage for an elimination game for Tampa Bay on Monday in Game 4 at Fenway Park.
“I can’t believe that happened or that we didn’t get a chance to score right there,” Kiermaier said. “For one thing, I squashed that ball. I was hoping it would get out of the park. First of all, for that to happen right there, it just doesn’t make sense to me.”
Holbrook said the entire six-man umpire team came to the same conclusion based on Rule 5.06 in the MLB umpire manual, which states that any fair ball deflected by the fielder into the stands leads to the batter and the ball. runner have the right to advance two bases.
“Very simple,” Holbrook said. “From a referee’s point of view, the rule is a very simple textbook.”
After the ruling, Rays manager Kevin Cash asked if there was anything he could do about the situation. The umpires went on replay to verify that Renfroe had not intentionally kicked the ball. Cash agreed that Renfroe did not intentionally bounce the ball out of the stadium.
“That’s just the rule,” Cash said. “That’s the way it is. It was very unfortunate for us. I think it was pretty obvious that [Kiermaier] or Yandy were going to turn around to score, but it didn’t go the way we wanted. “
Renfroe said he tried to catch the ball before it bounced off the wall.
“I happened to look up and the wall was there,” Renfroe said. “Hopefully luckily it bounced off the fence and they issued a rule of thumb double.”
Cash wished the play had created a different outcome, but he expressed his acceptance of the outcome.
“Certainly at this point you can see a kind of rule of thumb, but we put a lot into these umpires and now we present the video to umpires,” Cash said. “I think it would be a very easy decision if someone stepped in and said it was obvious that he was going to score. In saying that, it has been a rule for a long time and we are going to play within the rules that are presented to us this season.”
But the rules did not take away the spice at the moment for the Rays clubhouse.
“He’s a heartbreaker,” Kiermaier said. “Plain and simple.”