On Monday, the Boston Red Sox finished their upset of the Tampa Bay Rays in the American League Division Series with a walk-off sacrifice fly. The night before, however, the two AL East rivals played what I consider a perfect MLB playoff game.
Going into Sunday’s game in Boston, the Red Sox and Rays were tied at one game apiece after splitting the first two contests in Tampa Bay. Whichever team took Game 3 would have a huge advantage for the remainder of the series, as teams that take a 2-1 lead in a best of five series often go on to win.
For the second game in a row, both teams scored in the first inning, and the Rays led 2-1. The Red Sox struck in the third to take a 3-2 lead and extended it by another run in the fifth inning. The Rays tied the game in the eighth, and it eventually went to extra innings, where not much happened until the 13th inning.
Nick Pivetta, the only pitcher that Boston used past the ninth inning, faced Tampa Bay center fielder Kevin Kiermaier with a runner on first base and two outs. Kiermaier hit a line drive to right field, which then bounced off the wall, the warning track, Red Sox right fielder Hunter Renfroe and, finally, over Fenway Park’s short right field fence.
No one was sure what had happened. Kiermaier and teammate Yandy Diaz raced around the bases while 37,224 fans in Fenway Park waited for a call. After a lengthy review, Kiermaier was placed at second and Diaz at third.
The MLB rulebook states that if a fair ball that isn’t in flight is deflected by a fielder and goes out of play, it is ruled a ground-rule double. Additionally, a ground-rule double means that each base runner is awarded two bases, which is why Diaz was placed at third even though he might have have scored had the ball not gone out of play.
Fenway Park was delighted with the decision, and Boston fans only got louder when Pivetta struck out Mike Zunino to end the inning. The use of such an obscure rule in such a late inning already made the game a classic, but what came next elevated it to perfection.
With one out in the bottom of the 13th inning, Renfroe drew a walk before Red Sox catcher Christian Vazquez launched the first pitch of his at-bat over Fenway Park’s left field wall to give the Red Sox a 6-4 win.
This game had everything one could want from an MLB playoff game. There were lead changes, clutch hits for both teams, extra innings, a walk-off home run and, most importantly, an obscure rule having a major impact on the game.
One of my favorite things about baseball is that when it comes to the rules, no other sport can compare with the sheer strangeness of America’s pastime. And while I am sure that these rules come up just as often in meaningless July games, it seems as if they have a propensity for appearing right when it will cause the most controversy.
The bottom line is that this game was everything a playoff baseball game should be. Those games are rare, and when we get one, it must be savored.
Will Cunningham is a junior studying journalism at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnist do not reflect those of The Post. Want to talk to Will? Tweet him @willocunningham.