The Tampa Bay Rays-Boston Red Sox game Sunday night took a strange turn in the top of the 13th. With Yandy Diaz on first after a single to right field and two outs, Kevin Kiermaier belted the ball to right field. It hit the wall, then hit right fielder Hunter Renfroe, and then bounced over the wall. And while Diaz seemed set to score from first easily before the ball hit Renfroe, the umpires decided (in consultation with the league office in New York) that this was a ground-rule double, holding up Diaz at third. Mike Zunino then struck out, ending the inning without a run. Here’s that Kiermaier hit:
Kevin Kiermaier ends up hitting a ground rule double. What a break for the Red Sox if this holds… pic.twitter.com/JxLaaBrAZY
— Justin Groc (@justgroc) October 11, 2021
Yes, on some levels, there are supposed to be rewards for players exploiting loopholes that benefit their team, such as with the Cleveland Browns pushing Austin Ekeler into their own end zone to get the ball back earlier Sunday. But this one seemed stranger than that, as it was particularly advantageous for the Red Sox not to field this ball. Here’s what Ken Rosenthal said about it (per what he heard from MLB) on the MLB Network broadcast, though:
.@Ken_Rosenthal got the ruling from MLB: "A ball deflected by a player out of play is a ground-rule double. The ball retains its status as a batted ball until it's fielded cleanly by a defensive player so that is the same as if the ball had naturally bounced over the fence."
— Jen McCaffrey (@jcmccaffrey) October 11, 2021
It certainly wasn’t clear that Renfroe deliberately knocked the ball over the wall. But that outcome certainly worked out better for his team than if he had tried to field the ball and throw it in to gun down Diaz at home, which probably wouldn’t have happened. And it will be interesting to see if MLB makes a change in the rules here this offseason.
So it looks like the Red Sox got a break here. And that wound up paying off for them, as they won it in the bottom of the 13th on a Christian Vazquez home run. They’re now up 2-1 in the series, with Game 4 in Boston Monday night at 7:07 p.m. Eastern.
[Justin Groc on Twitter; photo from Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports]