BOSTON – Kevin Kirmire’s line drive went over the head of right fielder Hunter Renfro and bounced off the short wall in front of the Boston bullpen back on the warning track. It ricocheted up Renfro and into the air.
The Red Sox’s right fielder waved it desperately – and unsuccessfully – to keep it from going out of the game.
It’s a good thing he couldn’t.
Saved by an ambiguous rule and a bounce that was too strange for the quaint Fenway Park, the Red Sox defeated the Tampa Bay 6-4 on Sunday night’s 13th-inning walk-off homer of Christian Vazquez to finish the Rays 100-win. Proceeded to a victory by doing. AL Division Series.
“I was speechless,” said center fielder Kike Hernandez, who had come to support Renfro. “I don’t know if you guys have seen this before. I’ve never seen this before in my life.
“I wasn’t sure what was being said. I wasn’t sure if the runners would back down. … Like, I had no idea,” he said. “Luckily, it went our way. And call it a home-field advantage if you want – call it whatever you want – but we won.
Wild-card Red Sox took a 2-1 lead in a best-of-five matchup. Game 4 is in Fenway on Monday – Marathon Day in Boston – with Game 5 in St. Petersburg, Fla., on Wednesday if necessary.
Tampa Bay rallied from a 4–2 deficit to tie in the eighth inning and it was still a 4-all when Yandy Diaz took one out in the 13th.
Then came the drama in which the umpires ran for the rule book and Ray scratched his head.
Diaz was halfway from second to third when Kirmeyer’s ball bounced off a 5-foot-high wall, and would have scored easily if he had stayed in play. But the umpires honored and walked into the headset before awarding Kirmayer a double and sending Diaz to third.
Baseball Rule 5.05(a)(8) states: “Any bounding fair ball deflected by the fielder into the stands, or over or under the fence on the fair or foul area, in which case the batter and all runners forward.” Would be entitled to increase. Two bases.”
“If I finish second, that’s fine,” Kirmeyer said. “But I was hoping to see that Yandy scored, because he clearly would have scored. … It is unbelievable that it worked to their advantage in exactly that way.”
Rays manager Kevin Cash said he saw the replays and it was clear that Renfro didn’t purposely hit it on the wall.
“That’s the rule. It happens this way. It was very unfortunate for us,” he said. “I think it was pretty clear that KK or Yandy were going to come to score, but it got in our way didn `t come.”
Umpire crew chief Sam Holbrook said: “It’s in the rule book. This is a ground-rule double. Umpires have no discretion.”
“There isn’t, ‘He would have done this, he would have done it.’ It’s absolutely flat in the rule book, it’s a double of a ground rule,” he said.
When play resumed, Nick Pivetta ended the innings by dismissing Mike Zunino and came on to tie the mound in celebration.
Renfro walked with a dismissal in the bottom half, then Vazquez hit over the Green Monster to end Luis Patino’s first pitch.
Hernandez and Kyle Schwarber each had three hits, including a homer, for Boston.
Hernández scored seven consecutive hits in the series to finish first in singles, third in singles and fifth. He became the first Red Sox player with four extra-base hits in the latter game of the season, scoring 5 for 6 with a home run and three doubles in Boston’s Game 2 victory.
Red Sox ace Nate Iovaldi allowed a two-run homer from Austin Meadows in the top of the first, but Schwarber led the bottom half with a home run. Hernandez’s fifth-inning homer gave Boston a 4–2 lead, but Ray tied it in the eighth when Vander Franco hit a solo homer and Meadows and Randy Arozerena doubled.