BOSTON – Saved by a bizarre bounce and an obscure rule, Boston staggered visiting Tampa Bay Sunday night on a walk-off, two-run homer by Christian Vázquez in the 13th inning to move one victory from eliminating the 100-win Rays from the AL Division Series.
The wild-card Red Sox took a 2-1 edge in the best-of-five matchup, with Game 4 on Monday at Fenway Park – Marathon Day in Boston. Game 5 would be 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.
Kevin Kiermaier lined a two-out shot to right-center that bounced off the short wall in front of the Red Sox bullpen, ricocheted off right fielder Hunter Renfroe’s hip and flew back into the bullpen as Renfroe leaped to try to keep it in play.
It’s a good thing he didn’t: After the umpires conferred and went to the headsets, they correctly awarded Kiermaier a ground-rule double and sent Diaz, who had come all the way home, back to third.
Diaz was halfway from second to third and easily would have scored if the ball remained in play. But 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 KK or Yandy was going to come around to score, but it didn’t go our way.”
Nick Pivetta struck out Mike Zunino to end the inning, then 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.
Kiké Hernández and Kyle Schwarber each had three hits, including a homer, for Boston.
Hernández singled in the first, singled in the third and homered in the fifth to give him seven consecutive hits in the series. He went 5 for 6 with a home run and three doubles in Boston’s Game 2 win, becoming the first Red Sox player ever with four extra-base hits in a postseason game.Red Sox ace Nate Eovaldi allowed Austin Meadows’ two-run homer in the top of the first, but Schwarber led off the bottom half with a home run. Hernández’s fifth-inning homer gave Boston a 4-2 lead, but the Rays tied it in the eighth when Wander Franco hit a solo homer and Meadows and Randy Arozarena doubled.
Garrett Whitlock struck out Zunino to end the inning.
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