BOSTON (CBS) — It was a deep but playable fly ball that should have been caught. The Red Sox should have had one runner on first base with one out, and Matt Moore should have been able to work his way out of it.
But in sports, “should have” rarely means much, and Rays rookie Wil Myers learned that the hard way on Friday afternoon at Fenway Park.
The fly ball came off the bat of David Ortiz, whose pose in the batter’s box made it seem like the ball would land 10 rows deep in the bleachers. Instead, it was set to come down on the warning track, with Myers camped out comfortably underneath it. At the last second, though, Myers bailed, running forward, away from the ball’s landing spot. The ball sure did land, and there was nobody there to catch it, and it bounced off the warning track dirt and over the fence.
The Red Sox had second and third with nobody out, and they used it to open up a five-run fourth inning on their way to scoring 12 unanswered runs to win Game 1 of the ALDS.
The misplay by Myers was hardly the only thing to go wrong for the Rays in the fourth and fifth innings (there were many), but it was nevertheless the play that got it all started and the play that changed the dynamic of the game.
Myers, still two months shy of his 23rd birthday, owned up to his mistake after the game, saying he thought he saw center fielder Desmond Jennings out of the corner of his eye, so he got out of the way. He said he never lost the ball in the sun and that he wasn’t thrown off by a fan or a pitcher in the Red Sox bullpen calling for the ball; he simply screwed up.
“Really a routine play,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said. “It’s not like there’s any problem with communication. He just saw something and backed off that was it.”
Jennings also echoed what Myers said, that there was nobody in the Red Sox bullpen who called for the ball in an effort to throw off Myers.
“Nah. The whole crowd just thought David Oritz hit a home run, everybody’s yelling, there’s not really much you can do,” Jennings said.
Myers not only accepted blame but also stood against a brick wall in the concourse of Fenway Park, answering questions for as long as reporters wanted to ask, all while noisy fans made their way to the exits chanting “MY-ERS” within earshot. As unimpressive as the mistake in right field was for the rookie, his response and attitude hours later were even more impressive. From appearances at least, it didn’t look or sound like Myers would be carrying any added weight on his shoulders once the first pitch of Game 2 is thrown.
But for now, the story from Game 1 is Myers’ misplay, as it no doubt changed the entire scope of Game 1.