BOSTON (CBS) — “I can’t believe that happened.”
Those were the words of Rays outfielder Kevin Kiermaier, a man who — with good reason — remained stunned at the ground rule double call that took the go-ahead run off the board for the Rays on Sunday night at Fenway Park. Instead of an RBI triple, Kiermaier was forced to accept a ground-rule double after his fly ball ricocheted off the right field fence, off the ground, off Hunter Renfroe, then over the fence and into the bullpen.READ MORE: Richard Seymour 'Ecstatic' To Take Place In Patriots Hall Of Fame
Logically, Yandy Diaz — who had taken off for second base with the pitch — would have scored with ease had the right fielder not deflected the ball out of play. Yet by the rules, the ball was a ground-rule double, giving each runner two bases from where they started. Diaz had to return to third base, and Kiermaier had to retreat to second.
Nick Pivetta then struck out Mike Zunino to strand the runners, and Christian Vazquez hit a two-run walkoff home run in the bottom of the frame to give Boston a 2-1 series lead.
“Man, for one, I crushed that ball. I was just hoping to see it leave the yard. I got a lot of snap and crackle with no pop,” Kiermaier said. “And for that to happen right there, it just doesn’t make sense to me, but the ruling is what it is.”
Kiermaier added: “For the ball to bounce off the wall and then hit a player and go over again, I just can’t believe that is a ground-rule double. I mean, Yandy would have scored standing up. It’s a heartbreaker, plain and simple.”
After the game, Kiermaier understood the rule and understood that it was applied correctly. Still, he politely expressed disagreement with the rule.
“We have to get rewarded for more than just a ground-rule double. I didn’t care. If I stayed on second, that’s fine. But I was hoping to see that Yandy scored because he would have easily obviously, but once again, the rules are in place. I can’t sit here and go against those. It’s incredible that it worked out to their advantage just like that,” Kiermaier said. “For a play like that to happen — it might have been panic mode after the play because I’m sure [Renfroe] didn’t know what the rule was. It ended up working out for them, unfortunately for us, but it is what it is.”
Rays manager Kevin Cash likewise accepted that the rule is the rule.READ MORE: Gotham Chopra Sheds New Light On Russell Westbrook In SHOWTIME Doc: 'People Think He's Raw Emotion, There's A Lot Of Layers There'
“By rule, it’s just a ground-rule double. The umpires met and got together, and said, you’re more than welcome to challenge it. I saw the replay. Obviously there was nothing intentional by it. That’s just the rule. That’s the way it goes. It was very unfortunate for us,” Cash 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.”
Cash expressed a desire for some discretion to be applied in such a case, especially with video being readily available to umpiring crews.
“Oh, I definitely wish it was different. Certainly in the moment — you can appreciate somewhat of a blanket rule, but we put a lot on these umpires, and now we’ve introduced video to umpires. I think it would be a very easy call if somebody stepped in and said it was stating the obvious that he was going to score,” Cash said. “Saying that, it’s been a rule for a long time, and we’re going to play within the rules that are presented to us this season.”
Despite the rule being clear, the play was nevertheless controversial — particularly in Tampa.
Make it make sense pic.twitter.com/QyLp3UTpdL
— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) October 11, 2021
Yet to umpire crew chief Sam Holbrook, it was a rather simple situation.
“It’s in the rule book. It’s a ground-rule double. There’s no discretion that the umpires have,” Holbrook said. “There’s no, ‘he would have done this, would have done that.’ It’s just flat out in the rule book, it’s a ground-rule double.”
Holbrook explained that during the review that came after Cash challenged the play, the focus was on whether or not Renfroe intentionally deflected the ball out of play. That was not the case, so the call of a ground-rule double remained. Holbrook also said that as an umpire, he likes that the rule is black and white, and that he didn’t see any reason for the rule to change.
While it was a unique situation in a critical moment, Holbrook said it was not a complicated situation.MORE NEWS: Nathan Eovaldi Says He'll Have No Limitations On Short Rest, 'Extremely Confident' Red Sox Will Pull Off Game 6 Win
“Very simple,” Holbrook said. “From an umpire’s standpoint, very simple textbook in the rule.”